While many folks are hurrying around with holiday shopping and meal planning, many families are struggling with working out the logistics of dividing their children’s time between two or more households. Each family’s dynamics and situations are unique requiring a lot of give and take on the part of parents, grandparents, and extended family members.
With almost 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce, children frequently get caught up in the “annual access dispute” between parents as they voraciously fight for the right to spend more time with their kids. Here are some suggestions that can help both parents strike a balance and work out more harmonious arrangements:
Don’t wait until the last minute
Parents can save themselves – and the kids – a lot of stress by working out holiday arrangements well in advance. Waiting until the last minute creates anxiety and disappointment for the children, and anger and frustration for the parents.
Think of acceptable compromises
One of the most widely used options used with divorced parents is the “even year – odd year” plan. This is when the children spend Thanksgiving with Mom during the even or odd years and Christmas with Dad, alternating each year. This could also work with other holidays, spring breaks, etc.
Accept that neither side is going to be 100 percent happy with the outcome. However, a little flexibility can go a long way with surprising results. Especially with future negotiations. Just remember to give a little in order to get a little.
Blending the families
Blended families unquestionably have their share of challenges, especially during the holidays, as children and parents try to combine different beliefs and customs. Parents should try to strike a balance and be as fair as possible when dealing with significant others, stepchildren and biological children.
Children often feel guilty about the problems their parents are having and think they are to blame. It’s important not to speak negatively about your ex-spouse around the kids no matter how irritated you are. Their adjustment period will go a lot smoother and they will feel more confident in new situations if they know they have your love and support.
The best gift you can give your children during this difficult time will not come gift wrapped with a bow. It will come in the form of patience, understanding and sensitivity that will allow them enjoy the holidays without fear of getting tangled up in hurt feelings and bad vibes.
Know When to Seek Outside Help
Going through transitions are difficult for parents and children. During this time you may see some abnormal behaviors such as:
- Change in appetite
- Sleeping difficulties
- Withdrawal or social isolation
- Insecurity or low self-esteem
- Overwhelming sadness and lots of tears
- Obsessive or overly anxious
- Easily annoyed or irritated
- Intense anger or rage
If these feelings become extreme or last for several weeks after the holidays, consider speaking to a mental health professional. This person can also provide parenting and dispute resolution coordination so that you can work out an affirmative co-parenting plan that will benefit everyone.