This time of year can be overwhelming for everyone. And being a separated or divorced mom can create a whole new set of challenges you never could’ve anticipated. Deep breath. This does get easier, I promise. Especially if you keep in mind these tips on how to navigate the holidays with kids...
Tip #1: When in doubt, stick to your parenting plan.
It’s easy to veer off the schedule. Even your lawyer said it’s just a “fall-back,” right? Listen, being flexible is great, when it’s a two-way street that works for everyone. But sometimes too much flexibility can actually add to your stress instead of taking it away. The more you venture off your plan, the more you’ll need to think about it, and the more room there’ll be for disagreements with your ex (“I said you can have them back to me on the 26th, not the 27th!”).
By sticking to your parenting plan from the get-go, you eliminate the risk of confusion. It may not be perfect, but it is reliable.
If you don’t have a parenting plan in place yet, use the standard parenting holiday schedule in your state or county as your go-by. If you don’t know where to find the plan for your area, call the clerk of your local court.
Tip #2: Remember that it comes out in the wash.
While this isn’t true with all parenting time, it should be with an alternating holiday schedule. Upset that he has the kids the first part of break? Fair enough, especially if they’re little. But that also means it's your turn next year. And if you don’t have a parenting order in place yet, keep track - in writing - of how you handled the dates this year, so you can make sure to set up next year accordingly.
We say this a lot at DIGC: divorce is a marathon, not a sprint. And it calls on a whole different type of strength. If you can stay focused and concentrate on the bigger picture instead of what’s happening right now, it’ll help you see that over the long haul, you’re each going to have the same amount of holiday time.
Moms of young children, we know this is an especially hard time for you. You’ve been with your kids on the first day of Kwanzaa, the last night of Hanukkah, or Christmas morning every year until now. It’s incredibly tough to miss this special time with them. Just do your best to remember that holidays are about celebrating with your loved ones. The actual dates on which you do it aren't as important as the fact that you're celebrating.
Tip #3: Put yourself in your child’s shoes.
It’s easy to get caught up in the unfairness of having to miss out on any time with your children over the holidays. It’s also easy to get bent out of shape about whether the exchange on Christmas Eve will take place at 4 or 5 o’clock.
If you were to ask your child what’s worrying her about your family holiday plan, you’re likely to hear something like “I just want to know where I’m waking up Christmas morning” or “I’m worried Santa won’t know which house to go to.”
Kids want consistency. They want to know the plan. (And they want to know that you’ve shared the plan with Santa!). They also take their cues from you. If you’re noticeably upset or unraveled by the schedule, they will be, too.
Friend, give yourself permission to make mistakes along the way. One thing I do know for sure: there is actually a learning curve here, and it does get easier as the years progress. Remember you’re not alone. You’re in good company.