By Gianna Huesch
The holiday season can be very hard to adjust to for newly divorced or separated parents and can be a constant reminder of how your life has dramatically changed. The feelings of loss can be magnified at this time, especially when it can seem that everybody else is having a picture-perfect Christmas. Here are some practical tips we’ve found that help our clients prepare for the festive season.
- Review your parenting agreement, if you have one. Parenting agreements have very specific arrangements and over time, it’s possible to forget what was originally agreed to.
- Stick to the terms of your parenting agreement. It’s obviously too late in the year now to amend things, but if you are unhappy with an unworkable arrangement, make sure you address it early in the new year to avoid it being an issue next year.
- Be respectful of your ex’s time with the kids and make an effort not to argue about it, even if you disagree with a court’s ruling. Harbouring resentment or feeling cheated will only make you feel worse. Finding a way to reach a place of acceptance about your situation is key
- Never engage your children in the conflicts with your ex.
- Be willing to compromise. It’s not about trying to win, it’s about making the best arrangements for your kids. Being flexible if your ex wishes to implement a minor change will also mean they are more likely to compromise next time you need them to.
- Reassure your kids that celebrations will go on but will be different this year.
- Take your kids gift shopping for their other parent. This is one of the best ways you can show your kids that things are amicable (enough!) and will help you feel good about yourself.
- Be cordial to your ex. Research shows that it isn’t divorce itself that hurts kids, it’s the fighting and hostility that has the most negative effect. The most important gift you can actually give your kids is putting effort into building a positive co-parenting relationship.
- If you are not with the kids during the holidays, they may worry about you. So it’s important to let them know what your plans are going to be, whether you are spending the time with friends or other family. This gives them a sense of certainty and will help ease their worries about you when they are not with you for any length of time.
- Remember that Christmas morning is not the entire festive season. If you won’t have the kids Christmas morning, it’s not going to hurt anyone for gifts to stay under the tree for a few more days. The kids will be just as happy to have a second Christmas with you. The exact dates of holidays aren’t as important to kids, so long as they still get to participate in all the various rituals at some point.
- Try to avoid acting the martyr. If you find yourself alone on Christmas day, instead of feeling lonely or gloomy, consider volunteering time to a charity that helps the less fortunate. Being of service to others helps you tap into gratitude for what you have.
- Create brand new family traditions. Let go of the old ones, and adapt new ones to suit your new life, to help everyone move on.
- Take good care of yourself. Practising self-care goes a long way to helping you get through a tough time. Maximise your ability to cope by ensuring you get enough rest and nutrition and give yourself a break.
- Try not to dwell on the fact that you will only have your children for some of the time. Instead, appreciate the time you will have with them, and the likely rare time you will have all to yourself.
- Focus on the kids’ happiness and wellbeing. Be upbeat about their holiday plans, and whatever you do, never allow them to feel guilty.
Do you need assistance with a family law matter? Please contact Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.