Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate family and all that we’re thankful for, and for divorced families, the day is no different! Usually, the only ingredients needed to bring joy — not stress — to the table during the holiday season is a little creativity and flexibility in co-parenting strategies. Ready to dig in? Here are 5 tips for a more relaxed, happy and child-centered Thanksgiving.
Think of the day through your child’s eyes. As psychologist and solo parenting expert Leah Klungness, Ph.D. wisely states, kids can only eat one turkey for Thanksgiving. In other words, when making plans and structuring your child’s day, consider that requiring your child to travel to two Thanksgiving dinners is probably overwhelming. (Would you want to eat twice the turkey and cranberries? Especially if there is a long car ride between meals?) If your child will spend Thanksgiving day with your ex’s family and then return to your home in the evening, it may be better to greet your child with snuggles and a fun holiday movie rather than another heavy meal with lots of people around. Another alternative is to eat the main meal with one parent and desert with the other.
Consider Sharing a Meal. Spending Thanksgiving dinner together can be a powerful statement to your kids that you are still family, despite divorce or separation. How to pull this off? Simply keep it light, pleasant and be on your best behavior. When children of divorce are asked to recount things their divorced parents did that made a positive difference their lives, spending holidays together usually tops the list.
Your Baggage Belongs to You, Not Your Kids. On the other hand, if you just can’t be in a room together without an argument breaking out, don’t subject your children to the stress and animosity. Also, steer clear of bashing your ex with your extended family while your kids are present. It may be a relief to finally be among friends and family, but your children just don’t need to hear it. Wherever you spend Thanksgiving with your kids, keep the conversation positive and kid-friendly.
Create New Traditions. Your family has changed, so give yourself permission to change up some established traditions or start completely new ones. Perhaps this year it’s Mexican food or Chinese instead turkey. Or maybe you finally make it to NYC for the big parade. Whatever new routines and traditions you add, the aim is to help your kids bookmark happy memories of your time together. There are countless ways to pull this off.
Stay Flexible in Considering Alternate Arrangements. It’s standard in most child custody/parenting time plans for Thanksgiving and other holidays to be shared by parents in an alternating year pattern. However, as Thanksgiving approaches, are you re-thinking this agreement? You may be surprised how willing your ex is to accommodate your request for a few hours of parenting time on Thanksgiving, especially if you are polite, respectful, and can convey that it is in the children’s best interest. Are you the spouse being asked to give up a little of your time with your child? Staying flexible now means this favor could be reciprocated down road. This may be important to you, especially if next year is your scheduled year to sit out Thanksgiving.
For more holiday co-parenting strategies, please read Bari Weinberger’s popular Huffington Post article on the topic: 6 Ways Divorced Parents Can Get More Time With Their Children During the Holidays.