Even with the bad economy, there's plenty to celebrate and enjoy this time of the year. But sometimes people are just miserable because of holiday stress and family issues. If you have children, this can be a great time of the year. If you have children and are divorced, this might still be a great time or it can be really difficult.
While you can (if you take responsibility and try) control your own feelings and attitudes, many people don't do it and let themselves get swept up in various holiday dramas. We can't control what an ex-spouse feels, says or does, and that sometimes leads to problems at this time of the year. On top of that, there's a natural feeling of disappointment when you can't be with your kids at certain times during the holidays. Parents have a variety of attitudes about sharing or not sharing their kids, particularly around holidays. Their attitudes range from very considerate to insensitive to indifferent to the concerns of others, and even to being antagonistic toward others. Some people seem to thrive on conflict. Other people want to avoid conflict. If you're one of those who wants to avoid wrecking the holiday season, here are some quick tips on what you should avoid so you don't ruin it for yourself, your kids and other family members and friends.
What Not to Do:
- Make last-minute changes in your plans. You can create more havoc and hard feelings if you try to change the arrangements after everyone else has their plans made and travel schedule booked. Ignoring the other parent's plans will certainly create a great opportunity for conflicting plans. Trying to be cooperative well in advance of the holidays is the best way to deal with planning.
- Be inflexible if the other parent requests a change in the schedule. Things do come up that require new plans. Some parents insist on following the court's order without variation, when the other parent is asking for a favor. Such parents later inevitably have situations arise later that necessitate a change in the schedule. If they haven't been kind to their ex-spouse, they may not be able to convince that ex-spouse when the shoe's on the other foot.
- Be inflexible and demanding if you request a change in plans. If you are working under a court-ordered schedule, you can change it by agreement or by going to court and convincing a judge. Which do you think is quicker and cheaper? If you think that you can always have your way on visitation issues, you will quickly learn otherwise.
- Argue in front of the kids about the plans. Mature parents understand the need to keep kids out of adult issues. Arguing and negotiating a holiday schedule should not be done in front of the kids.
- Short-change the kids, but blame the other parent. If you choose to not let the kids have or do a certain thing, such as attend a family party, don't blame your ex-spouse. If you are convinced that the decision is the right thing, then notify the kids in an age-appropriate way and don't criticize the other parent.
- Criticize the other parent and the other side of the family. There are many times when a parent is very tempted to make fun of, or put down, the ex-spouse and his or her family. Some people even claim that such criticism is acceptable because it is “the truth”. It's not necessary to investigate the truthfulness of the statements, because that's not the real issue. Even “truth” can be hurtful. The concern is that such critical statements are damaging to the children because they realize that they come half from each parent. They likely will take that criticism personally.
- Compete against the former spouse for the love and affection of the kids. Don't try to provide the best gifts, the best parties or best trips. Children have plenty of love to share and there's just no need to wage a battle over the children.
What to do
Some people are interested in avoiding the drama and conflict during the holidays. If you are one of those, here's some things you can do to improve your chances of having a happy holiday season.
- Keep a good relationship all throughout the year with your ex-spouse. You may have to hold your tongue occasionally, but the kids will respect you for it and you will have a better chance of getting any needed schedule adjustments or favors that you request.
- Be flexible and be willing to compromise. There are two sides to everything. Keep in mind that you can accomplish more through cooperation than through battle. And your kids will appreciate a reasonable and realistic relationship between their parents.
- Demonstrate mature behavior for kids. This will help your children learn to deal with adversity and it will help earn their respect.
- Listen and think before you speak out. Don't just blurt out an emotional response in discussions with your ex-spouse. Take a deep breath, listen to what your ex is saying and then think through your response before you answer. It will help avoid a lot of hurt feelings.