Yes, Virginia, it is possible to share the holiday with your ex and kids and make it a happy one! Celebrating together has benefits: it keeps children from having to do double-duty on the holiday, race between households, or miss being with one parent. Think you and your ex are up to the challenge of a family holiday? Read on for some tips on how to make your shared holiday successful.
- Start A New Tradition. Don’t try to recreate the past. It may not be feasible to celebrate on the same day and time, have the same decorations, and serve the same food as you once did. Accept that you’re starting a new chapter as a divorced family and put a new spin on the holiday. For example, gather on New Year’s instead of Christmas morning; invite your ex’s new partner (and ask them to bring their favorite meal); introduce a new tradition such as caroling or Secret Santa gifting. This will help you keep the focus on your future, and a positive co-parenting relationship.
- Realize It’s Time-Limited. Got grievances? Put them aside for just one day! Remember the family events you attended as a child? You may not have had the warm-and-fuzzies for Aunt Jane or Grandpa Lou, but you could be polite and tolerate them for a short time. So if you find yourself annoyed by the antics of your ex and/or your ex’s new partner, remember to “make nice” for the sake of your children.
- Prepare For The Event. Do a “run-through” with your ex ahead of time. Come to an agreement about new partners — invite them or not? Note: This is not the day to introduce a new partner to the children. It’s also important to involve each other in the planning so it feels like a team effort: who’s cooking what? What will the festivities include? How will you sign gift cards – just from the two of you, or from new partners as well? And here’s a tip for large, blended families: clarify gift-giving etiquette and mind holiday budgets by deciding who’s giving what to whom.
- Be Mindful Of Communication. It’s not enough just to speak politely. Kids pick up on body language and the general “vibe” in the room. If your verbal communication is diplomatic, but your non-verbal communication is hostile, the clash will confuse your children and drain the holiday spirit right out of the holiday.
- Overstay Your Welcome. If you’ve decided the event will take place at your ex’s home, consider setting a time limit. Knowing that you will only be there for a short period will make it easier for all the adults to keep things festive.
- Give New Partners And Their Kids The Cold Shoulder. Don’t divide camps by ignoring your ex’s new partner and their children. Remember that you’re showing your kids how well-behaved adults behave! Be sure to take an interest in everyone there. And don’t forget to bring a gift, even if it’s a small item, for the new people in your children’s lives.
- Go rogue. Stick to the plan. If you agreed that your new partner wouldn’t attend, don’t give your ex a jolt by having them in tow. Similarly, don’t upstage your co-parent by giving the kids a different (and more expensive) present than you promised.
- Make A Dramatic Exit. Don’t ruin the day with a self-centered departure: getting emotional, dissing the way your ex and new partner hosted the event, or bragging to your kids about all the bells and whistles they’ll get when they come back to you. Your kids don’t need fancier presents or a 5-star vacation; they need to relax and enjoy their holiday.
A final, but critical note: don’t attempt a shared gathering if you and your ex have an acrimonious relationship. It’s far better for your kids to split their time with the two of you than have their holiday ruined by fighting or icy interactions. It will be a gift to everyone to avoid conflict.
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