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Handling the holidays when you’re a divorced parent

Just because you may be divorced doesn’t mean your children don’t have visions of a happy family holiday dancing in their heads. The end of the year get-togethers should be about your children, not your residual anger at their other parent.

† Plan ahead so you can avoid the usual situations that press each other’s buttons. Even if you think you have worked out the details months ago with your ex, check again to be sure everyone understands where the children will be spending the big event days and under what circumstances. Tell the children in advance about the plans made on their behalf.

† Work out every detail beforehand, including pick up and drop off times and locations.

† If you have a nasty relationship with your children’s other parent, ask for intervention support from friends or family members if needed. One situation where you might want help is with pick up and drop-off of your children. A friend or family member can remain neutral when seeing your ex where you might not be able to. If things become too difficult with your ex, ask your local police department if they accommodate pick up and drop off needs for divorced couples. With that said, save this move only as a last resort so your children will not have to spend time in a police station unnecessarily.

† Watch your words. While the temptation may be there to bad-mouth your ex in front of the children — don’t. This kind of talk can leave your child feeling sad and also can create a situation in which your child may feel the need to defend your ex. Don’t put your child in the middle.

† This step is important and often overlooked: Discuss with your ex what presents your children should receive over the holidays (or for any event). While it may be tempting to try to outshine the other parent with showy, expensive gifts, resist the urge. That kind of push and pull does not benefit your child.

† Extended family members may want to lavish your children with competitive showy gifts as well. Inform them about the wishes of you and your ex.

† As with expensive showy gifts, it’s tempting to want to give your child a knockout day when they are with you, but changing the style of the celebrations you created when you were together with your ex may upset your children. How did you celebrate as a family? Keep the flavor of your traditional celebration; over time you can add to it, taking your children’s wishes into consideration.

Tips from the parenting trenches: If you share more than one child with your ex, don’t split the kids up on the special event days over the holidays. Your children will want to spend those days and times with each other.

Gannett News Service

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