Holiday time is full of family parties and obligations. It’s hard enough to have your children see everyone and go everywhere you feel they should as a married couple. When you’re separated or divorced, it’s twice as hard because now you are dividing the children’s time between two or more families and everyone wants to see them over the holidays. With this is mind, I offer some rules of the road for surviving the holidays without finding yourself in your lawyer’s office once the holidays are over.
1. Be respectful of each other and the children. If you know the kids are expected at the other family’s Christmas dinner after your family’s lunch, do your best to have them ready to go on time. It’s natural to want to squeeze every possible minute with your children on a holiday, but imagine how unpleasant it will be for your children if they have to be shuffled to the other parent’s family by an aggravated, angry parent who feels he/she was cheated out of time with the children. Remember, if you’re alternating the holiday visitation and you don’t respect the other parent’s time with the kids, you can expect the same treatment at the next holiday.
2. As hard as it will be to let them go when your time is done, encourage the kids to look forward to time with their other parent. A smoother transition will make it easier and more enjoyable for your children. This almost always results in the other parent doing the same for you.
3. Do not criticize any gifts or lack thereof from the other parent or his/her family. Your children are entitled to make their own judgments about both sides of their family, and they may not have a problem with a gift unless you bring it up.
4. Communicate with the other parent if the kids will be late through no fault of your own. Reasonable advance notice is what any judge would tell you to give your children’s parent, and if possible offer an accommodation for the time lost for your children and their other parent.
5. If you’re on the receiving end of lost time with your children, don’t jump to conclusions about the other parent’s intentions. Nothing is perfectly executed in real life. Give each other a little room for imperfection. I promise you your children will not remember how many minutes they spent with mom versus with dad, but they will remember how you treated each other and how that made them feel. Having said the above, I hope you enjoy your time with your children this holiday season in whatever holiday you celebrate.
Please feel free to leave a comment on LinkedIn with any topics you may want to learn more about. If there is a part of the process that you don’t understand, or have heard conflicting information from friends and family, let me know and your question may make it into a future post.