Stepfamily Talk: Plan for Holidays for the Kids
Should I Talk to My Ex about Holidays and Kids and What to Do this Year?
I’m a recently divorced mother of two children, age 5 and 8. As the holiday approaches, I’m wondering what’s best for the children. I don’t get along well with my ex and we don’t really have a plan for the holidays. Of course, I’d like to see the kids as much as possible. Any advice?
Dear Worried Mom:
Thanks for writing. This is an important topic. Holidays are generally the most stressful time for divorced parents and stepfamilies, in part because parents have such high expectations and both parents want to be with the kids. When ex-spouses do get along, they sometimes plan to spend some time together with their children over the holidays. They may share a meal, open gifts or go on an outing together. This works well if the kids are comfortable with the idea. It’s also a good idea because the parents are less likely to fight over how much time they’ll each spend with the kids. It sounds like this may not work in your situation, however, unless you and your ex can agree to get along.
Jennifer Millner, special counsel with the law firm Fox Rothschild, says that it’s critical for you and your ex to establish a plan as soon as possible. “Even if it’s difficult for you to talk to your ex, you should do it for the sake of your kids,” she says. “As hard as it may be, have a conversation about the holidays with the other parent. Children need the structure and security of knowing where they are going and when. Remember, it is the child who suffers in the long run,” she says.
“If you need court assistance in establishing a plan, be sure to leave yourself enough time to get it because December is a very busy month for judges,” she suggests. “If traveling is involved for the children, be proactive and make arrangements early. Make sure your child has a passport if necessary, and that all flights are nonstop if your child will be traveling alone. Make sure you have a line of communication with the other parent at all times that your child will be traveling,” she says.
“You might want to start thinking about establishing new holiday traditions with your kids,” she says. Be sure that your children provide their ideas about new traditions. I’d like to add that it’s critical to let go of some of your fantasies about holidays. Those fantasies can cause a lot of trouble. It’s better for your kids if you let them spend some time with their dads than to try to have them all to yourself. You need to think of creative solutions for enjoying the holidays. For example, when our kids were young, we invited our ex-spouses over for a Christmas brunch with all the children. We wanted our children to know that we would put aside our differences for the sake of their happiness.