Navigating the Holidays with Kids After (or During) Divorce

Heartbreak, Family

Divorce is a harsh time for anyone, especially during the holidays, read more to see how to cope.

by Marina Sbrochi, for

making holidays happy when you're a single parent

Managing the holidays when you are married with children definitely takes some finesse and strategy.  Sometimes just the negotiating where to go can even be rough - “Should we alternate years for Thanksgiving and so on?  OR Do we visit one house, then the other if we live in the same town?”  Forget simplicity if both families live out of town. 

Now, throw a divorce on top of the holiday visiting mix.  Not only are you splitting the holidays more than two ways , you are splitting custody of the your children on these holidays.

Can I get a magic calendar please? Can we clone the children? While cloning the kids or waving a glitter-filled wand would be an easy fix, it’s not likely to happen.  So what’s the divorced parent to do? 



Sometimes when the divorce is plain old nasty - the courts will tell you what to do. Not fun for anyone.  Of course, I advocate being cool and getting along because you love your children (is there a better reason than that?!?).

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For the kids

Goal number one should be making it easy on the children.  There is no reason the holidays still can’t be happy times. It is all about the attitude. Taking into account the ages of the children, you have a few different options. 

1. If you will be celebrating the holiday in the same city, you can agree to split the day up.  One person take the morning to 4pm shift and the other parent gets the kids from 4pm onward.  Thanksgiving for lunch and dinner, sounds delish! Who can’t eat that meal twice?  Win! Win!  You can alternate your morning and afternoon years as well.


2. If you have older children that are more into doing their own thing , perhaps you can switch up years.  Celebrate with dad one year and mom the other.  When it’s your year for the holiday, start making your own traditions or maybe even take it on the road. Choose a destination to celebrate your holiday.

3. When families live out of town, this is where the real juggling begins.  You obviously can’t split the day up.  Alternating holidays and years is your best bet.  Depending on which holidays you celebrate, you might want to do Thanksgiving with one parent and either Hanukkah or Christmas with the other.  You could even agree to split Hanukkah evenly for each parent every year. 



4. Regardless of which way you divvy it up, make a firm plan ahead of time.  Let your children know what exactly is going on.  Make it easy for them.  Ask them to take part in planning. 

5. If your children want to call the other parent that is not with with them on the holiday -- let them!  It’s not a mine-or-yours holiday. Focus on making it great for your kids.  Teach them the joy of sharing holiday kindness with everyone.



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For you

Now that you’ve resolved to be cool for the kids, you still have to deal with your own feelings.  Here are some things you can do to ease the roughness of the holidays as a split family.

1. Remind yourself of the reason for the season.  Keep that as your main focus.  Volunteer your time to help others with no family at all.  Visit the elderly.  Bring joy to those that you are spending your holiday time. If you find yourself feeling down, talk to someone.  Sometimes just talking out your feelings and having someone else understand can make you feel better.

2. Create your own calendar.  Just because it’s not your year for New Year's doesn’t mean you can’t have New Year's a few days before or after the “official” holiday.  Who says there has to be an exact day to toast sparkling apple cider and ring noisemakers?

3. Surround yourself with family and friends. Resist the urge to be by yourself because you just don’t feel the same without your usual gang with you.  Put on a smile and be thankful that you do have family and friends to be with.  Know that your presence there is making someone happy. 

4. Look at the bigger picture.  Sure it stinks diving holidays and spending holidays without your children at times.  Look at it this way -- it’s just a day, one day out of 365.  Make your others days special and you won’t be so sad about having ONE DAY not be exactly as you might want it.


What are your tips for seeing your kids -- and yourself -- through the holidays when you're separated or divorced?


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This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.