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Splitting the Holidays: what's best for you and your children

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One of the most difficult transitions in a divorce is the inevitable difficulties that come from having to change the way the family unit celebrates the holiday. Here are some quick tips to make this season more manageable.

1. Follow your divorce agreement. No, really. Read it and follow it to the letter. If you and your former spouse want to make changes, do so legally and then enact the change. This is the single best way to manage time disputes and to dispel the good guy/bad guy dynamic. If your children are old enough, allow them to read the holiday arrangement from your divorce paperwork as well and help them to advocate for change legally rather than attempting to shame the other parent into giving in to your wishes.

2. Plan ahead. Children from divorced homes often feel anxious and knowing what is coming will help alleviate some of their anxiety while making any necessary transitions more easy to manage. If possible, have both parents sit down with the children early on (September is a good pick, as school planning and Halloween are right around the corner) and make a clear plan for the rest of the year.

3. Don't be selfish with your children. Yes, we all want to spend every moment of the holidays with our children, but that is not always possible, instead of thinking about what you won't have focus in making the time you do have with your children as robust as possible. Really look forward to it and make some strong memories to enjoy when the children cannot be around.

4. Respect their time with the other parent. Unless stipulated to do so within your divorce decree, try to allow the children time with the other parent away from you both physically and technologically. That is, do not call the children incessantly or text unless this has already been agreed upon. Do not arrange to "bump" into the children while they are out with the other parent; it is childish and selfish to so and will not only harm your relationship with the other parent, but also with your children.

5. Make peace with the other parent's surroundings. Unless your children are directly in harm's way due to the physical environment where the children are, do not share your opinions about your former partner's space. Ditto for the company the other parent keeps. If however, you have a legitimate reason to suspect the children are in danger, review this with your former spouse or contact your lawyer or child safety organization.

6. Model good behavior. Remember that the way you respond to your former partner is an example to your children about how adults handle their dealings with one another. I often suggest that you imagine your child as a baby: would you want a baby to see you treating his or her parent the way you are? If the answer is 'no', then you need to learn how to work better with your former spouse.

7. Remember that it's your holiday, too. Take advantage of the time away for your children: plan things to do, people to see, and places to go. Think about eat you might like to do to alleviate your stress and indulge in that process. Keeping positive about the time away will make it much less torturous and potentially more positive.

Follow these tips and you can easily manage the holidays.

Got a question? Email me at All published responses will be anonymous.

The information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.
Please consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical or mental health condition, or contact Bell Mental Health Associates, LLC. to schedule an appointment. Dawn DePasquale, LMHC, and Bell Mental Health Associates, LLC, expressly disclaims responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury, or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained in this site.



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