Top StoriesFive tips for divorced or separated parents to keep the holidays merry

Five tips for divorced or separated parents to keep the holidays merry

Five tips for divorced or separated parents to keep the holidays merry

For many families the holiday season ushers in a time of anxiety and stress. In particular, for some recently divorced or separated couples, this time of year is spent in conflict as parents struggle with the holiday schedule.

One parent may want the kids on a certain date, while the other says “that doesn’t work” for them, and the fight ensues.

One ex may lament, “stick to the court ordered schedule!”, the other may retort with, “the schedule sucks!”.

Meanwhile, generally speaking, all their kids really want for Christmas is a peaceful environment and time spent with both parents.

Here are five tips for divorced or separated parents to navigate the holiday season and keep things merry for the children.

1. Kids First

It seems like an easy concept. As the courts like to say, “Do what’s in the best interest of the children”. However, for parents embroiled in the emotional dissolution of their relationship it’s not always easy to adhere to an edict that most would agree, makes sense.

Instead, selfishly, many parents turn Christmas into a tug-of-war with the children being the proverbial rope, being yanked to and fro.

Counting every minute that the kids are with you, to make sure it’s absolutely even, is not in their best interest. Plan the schedule through the kids eyes. What will the experience be like for them. Remember, it’s not about the parents.

2. Be Generous

If you are the parent who normally has the kids most of the time, the holidays is the perfect time to make sure things are more balanced. Give the non-custodial parent more time with the children and if the children are young, make sure that who has them on the actual holiday is switched from year to year. One parent shouldn’t monopolize all the Christmas mornings.

3. Co-ordinate the Planning

Each parent making their own plans for the holidays without communicating with the other is a recipe for disaster. Discuss with your ex how the time will be split. Is there travel involved? If both parents want to have xmas dinner, perhaps one can change it to a xmas brunch, while the other has a later dinner, then alternate the next year. Work it out in advance, so the children’s day is stress free.

4. Still Family

If this is a new separation or divorce, it will be particularly hard for kids, as they struggle to adopt this new reality. Encourage the children that this is still a family, despite the fact that there are now two homes. Let them know they now have two places where they are loved and supported by each parent.

5.Treat Yourself

Take care of yourself over the holidays. Parents leaving a relationship often put all their focus on the children, to their own detriment. Being in a good place emotionally, psychologically and physically is also important. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, keep a positive mindset and treat yourself. A well balanced parent is a better parent. Happy Holidays!


Paul Riley is Managing Director at The Riley Firm. The firm has offices in Toronto, Ottawa and Kawartha Lakes and focuses on getting you out of bad relationships while protecting what’s most important to you.

Photo: Cottonbro, Pexel

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