We understand: despite being a beautiful season, December is listed as one of the most stressful times of the year even before factoring in a separation or divorce. Between the financial commitments, pressure at work, and general hustle-and-bustle of the holiday season, many families feel that a quick photo with Santa or a batch of holiday-themed cookies are enough to help their children get into the holiday spirit.
Making holiday memories with your children is a precious opportunity, especially when going through a separation or divorce. Today, we here at Richmond Tymchuk Family Law are listing off our top four tips for making this holiday season one to remember— for the best of reasons!
Tip #1: Create New Holiday Traditions
Oftentimes, conflict arises when one party feels that old traditions are “being taken away”. This commonly includes activities like tree-decorating, family dinners, or parade-watching that were, before the divorce or separation, shared by both parties.
The solution? Shift the focus to creating new holiday traditions; buoy the atmosphere by pitching holiday-oriented ideas that you and your children haven’t explored in previous years.
This could include: baking; gingerbread house decorating; holiday card photos or writing; arts and crafts; ornament-making; perusing seasonal lights; or even something as simple as finding a new favourite holiday movie. The options are endless! By focusing on what can be added rather than what may be missing, the mood is lightened and children are more likely to be active participants in your holiday plans.
Tip #2: Model Positive Behaviour
One of the core components of our child support legal guidance is ensuring that, in order to protect children in a divorce or separation, both parties model positive behaviour.
What does that look like?
- Electing not to argue or disagree in front of your children
- Speaking tactfully and amicably about the divorce or separation proceedings when asked to by your children
- Displaying a positive outlook on the holiday season in spite of the divorce or separation
- Not leaning on your child for emotional support
- Focusing on making memories here in the present rather than openly fixating on the future
Helping your children stay in the “now” with a positive outlook will work to soothe any anxiety and help them focus on the memories you and them are making throughout the holidays.
Tip #3: Set Up Emotional Support for Yourself
As parents, we have a tendency to put our children first— however, this can be detrimental when it comes to long-term healing.
Modelling positive behaviour doesn’t equate to putting yourself last. At Richmond Tymchuk Family Law, we recommend that you carve time out for yourself this holiday season to ensure that you aren’t wearing yourself thin.
“Taking time out for yourself” can include seeing a counsellor, a family member, a loved one, or a support group (either in-person or virtually) to speak freely and truthfully about your divorce or separation. The result? A healthier, more balanced state of mind that puts you in a better position to be fully present with your children over the holidays.
Tip #4: Try To Work Together With Your Ex, Regardless of If You Have Sole or Joint Custody
This is a topic we cover more in-depth in our accompanying blog, “Co-parenting Over the Holidays.”
If a split is amicable, then the holidays are an appropriate time to set differences aside for the sake of making the season a happy and memorable one for the children involved.
When one parent has sole custody, the parent in question makes all decisions regarding the child. If both parties share custody, then decision-making is divided between the two of them. Due to the emotional nature of the holidays, it is not uncommon for one or both parties to feel that the children should spend notable days with them or their families— which, in turn, can cause upset with the other party involved.
During the holidays, it is important to be cognizant of these emotions and work towards a fair agreement in which both parties feel that they have an opportunity to make holiday memories with their children.
As a result, the children will likely feel better about the divorce or separation and understand that this doesn’t change their ability to make cherished memories with both parents.