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Spending the Holidays Apart

Holidays can be a stressful time for everyone, especially for children affected by divorce.

When you first make the decision to separate, you may find it overwhelming to initially push past feelings of hurt and loss, to create the best custody outcome for your child.  Important factors to consider are whether holiday time will be shared or whether parents will alternate each holiday on an annual basis. Keeping sight of the best interests of the children is paramount and often involves advance planning. Rather than feel excluded because you may not be able to attend every celebration, keep in mind special moments can often be shared at a later time. A delayed visit from the Tooth Fairy or gift just because is always welcome.

Halloween is an example of a smaller holiday often overlooked when establishing an access schedule. When families are going through the transition to establish their new normal, it is easy to get caught up in the angry feelings directed at your former partner, or the situation you have found yourselves in. Halloween is a holiday specifically designed for children to be able to have fun while exercising their creativity.

While decisions regarding many of the more prominent holidays are initially made, when planning for Halloween, Valentine’s Day or even birthdays, here are some points to consider:

  • Does either parent have strong ties to this occasion or does this date hold minimal significance? Could the access schedule be altered to accommodate the parent with stronger traditions?
  • Would it be possible to share this occasion, to enable children to celebrate a portion of the day with each parent? If this is not a possibility, one parent could instead help the child plan for the occasion in advance while the other joins the child in the celebrations on the day. An example could be one parent helping to choose a costume while the other parent goes trick or treating with the child.
  • If you are not able to see your child on the holiday or special day, you could still help them prepare for it or be an important ear to share their stories after the fact. It is important to ask yourself if there is a way to be involved if you are not able to be present at that moment. The same goes for back to school shopping, homework and even picture day. When you let go of your anger or hurt and encourage your children to enjoy themselves while they are with the other parent, you are giving them permission to be happy, to create lasting memories and to keep the communication lines open.

While you may not be able to physically be present for every occasion or milestone, your ability to be a listening ear, cheerleader or voice of reason will help children through the family transition feeling loved and supported. 

Sheri Macneall