In every mediation involving children, there comes the moment both parents cry. When they picture Christmas morning–and their children are somewhere else.
As October dawns–so does the holiday season. The whirlwind of festivals, special meals, and family traditions begins now and doesn’t end until the cold snows of January 2nd.
Planning holiday time often proves the most emotional subject in mediation. Parents don’t want to miss a single special moment. They struggle to find ways for both parents to hold onto special days. A few guides can ease the process and maintain the joy.
Preserve vital traditions
As parents create their parenting plan, they should first discern which traditions are most important. And, to whom.
Dad hosts a yearly Halloween cook-out and backyard spook-fest. Mom’s family gathers for a reunion every Fourth of July. When traditions frame years of family connection for one parent–preserve those. Parents bless their children when they safeguard the moments that matter most.
Defining these traditions also offers flexibility. While Christmas morning often becomes the focal battleground, other Christmas traditions aren’t so rigid.
Dad loves baking Christmas cookies and searching for the perfect tree. Mom loves caroling and the annual Nutcracker performance. Each can have their own vital moments at some point during the season. As both parents see their key traditions maintained, they more easily flex on other moments.
Begin new traditions
Sometimes the key moment happens at a specific time. Trick-or-treating. Christmas morning. The midnight strike of the clock on New Year’s Eve. Many parents agree to alternate years–then feel like a loser each time it’s not their year.
Though the loss is real, building new traditions can help. One father understood the paramount importance of Christmas morning to his children’s mother. He knew alternating years would cause conflict until the children were grown. So, he gave her Christmas morning.
He decided to take the kids to Colorado each year for a New Year’s skiing trip. The family arrived to find a Christmas tree in their lodge and, the next morning, gifts under the tree. They didn’t have Santa. They had something even better–a generous Dad.
Dad’s gracious accommodation of Mom’s needs spoke volumes to his children. He made it possible for them to enjoy Christmas with Mom without guilt. And, then an equally special Christmas with him.
Early in the divorce process–establish separate traditions
Often parents seek to preserve the semblance of family for their children by trying to hold celebrations together. Trick-or-treating together or co-hosting a birthday party. Though the intentions are good–their efforts often backfire. For a variety of reasons:
- Too much pressure on parents. Often parents haven’t healed from their own anger and grief. To re-enter intimate family moments as estranged people can prove too much. Instead of creating the closeness they wanted for children–the holiday proceeds in stony silence or ends in shouting.
- Too much pressure on children. Children long for their parents to reunite. Every time Mom and Dad join together, they foster hope for children’s dream. Holding separate events with each parent normalizes for children the redefined family–great moments with Mom and Dad from separate homes.
- Too much pressure on the day. Both parents and children can look to holidays to magically “fix” the pain of the divorce. To return everyone to a more familiar and secure time. When the celebration can’t, all joy in the day is lost.
Instead, parents should focus on creating separate celebrations for holidays, birthdays, and other special events in the first year or two. Once everyone has adjusted to the new normal of relating to parents individually, the opportunity opens to rejoin for major events–without the confusion or damage of trying too early.
If you are considering divorce and want a process that will move your family to a healthier place, The Resolution Center stands ready to serve you. Call 317-344-9740 or email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com for information on all our services.