Remember Who Christmas Traditions Are Really For: The Kids
As a single mom, I've spent Christmas alone while my daughter visited with her father's family for the holiday. I've also celebrated Christmas morning as a blended family with my daughter, new husband and stepdaughter. Holidays can be challenging with so many moving parts and so many players who have emotional stakes in the day. I'm here to tell you to take the pressure off. Christmas isn't about you.
The complexities of the season tend to take on even larger dimensions when people are newly separated and when two different families are newly brought together -- blended -- into one. It takes some adjusting and some letting go. You don't want the holiday season to stoke a new fury with your ex-spouse or partner. Be the calm in your child's holiday storm and make a plan with the purpose of trying to see everything from the point of view of your children. They're making memories, after all.
Put your traditions into perspective. One day is not a holiday, it's what you make of it. Don't walk into things stubbornly holding to your traditions. For example, don't focus on the fact that Christmas dinner is always at 2 p.m. Instead, adjust your train of thought to ask, "How is this going to work for my kids?"
In a blended family with children merging from both sides, flexibility becomes even more important. Layers of stepparents, ex-spouses, in-laws and ex-in-laws are all valid participants in your child's holiday experience.
When I first divorced, I knew my ex-in-laws could give my daughter a more experiential Christmas than I could as a single mom in a tiny apartment. So, I negotiated my parenting time to be for New Year's instead of Christmas. That's when we would travel to Texas to visit my mom. My Christmas days were simple, and I had a day to myself. I could eat Chinese food and go to the movies if I wanted to. Or read that book I've been saving for when I had the time. It's just a day. One. Day. Kids deserve the chance to spend time with the rest of their family.
We're all adults here. Your ex is your partner in parenting. This is a person who should be a part of important things for your child. Sometimes that's a hard reality to confront. The wounds from a divorce are real and tangible. But you have to set those aside and focus on the children. They love you both. I know it's not always easy and we all make mistakes. But a child knowing their family -- all of them -- is good for them.
After a divorce (or breakup), parents have a business relationship with the other parent of that child. You're together in the business of raising a child. When negotiating for holiday time and for how that visitation and family time will take place, you must work within the realm of that business. This isn't the time to bring up the past and fight. It's not a time to badmouth your ex in front of the kids. Children are well aware of their parents' shortcomings without your biting comments. That's not appropriate in a professional setting. If you can use professionalism as a guiding philosophy, the framework for your communication, things won't get out of hand. Even if the other person isn't playing by the same guiding principles, you must. The conversation revolves around the needs of the children.
Keep your ego out of it, give yourself grace and remember to focus your energy on the children with the goal of making the holiday a good one. It's the best gift you can offer them, and I know you can do it.
Check out Bonnie's weekly YouTube videos at https://www.youtube.com/bonniejeanfeldkamp. To find out more about Bonnie Jean Feldkamp and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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