Avoid these 5 common mistakes during the holidays & keep your family traditions stress-free.

Along with the joys of tradition and togetherness holidays have to offer, they offer some additional stress too.

Between the hustle and bustle of food and gift shopping, visits with friends and family, sometimes the “togetherness” doesn’t end up feeling so calming after all. This can be especially true for a family with divorced parents.

Co-parenting following a divorce can be hard. Most of us have pre-set hopes and expectations for our experiences during holidays and we want to share those with our children.

The most successful divorced parents learn how to put their child’s needs first and work with the other parent to make holidays the most enjoyable for all.

5 Common Holiday Mistakes

Consider these 5 common mistakes (& suggestions) divorced parents make as we enter into the holiday season.

1. Not having a plan.

It’s imperative for everyone involved to have a set plan for holidays. Who will have the kids when? Will you split the day or engage in an ‘every other year’ routine? Perhaps this is already set up in the divorce decree but if it’s not, talk about it early so everyone knows what to expect.

Another advantage of having a set plan is that the children don’t end up feeling like they have to choose between parents.

2. Downplaying the other parent’s traditions.

Traditions are an important part of the holiday and are the pieces that make memories last a lifetime.

As a divorced parent, resist any temptation you may have to minimize the other parents’ traditions. Your children will be more well-adjusted if they can embrace both sides of the family’s traditions equally.

3. Passing along your emotions to your children.

As a divorced parent, there will likely be a holiday or two where you aren’t with your children. Of course, you are going to have an emotional response to this, which is completely normal and expected!

It’s healthier for everyone if you can process through that emotional response with your own support system and not pass that along to your children.

Consider saying something like “I’m going to miss you but I know you’ll have a wonderful time at your mom’s house!” This acknowledges your feelings, yet still supports your child’s time with their other parent.

4. Don’t make your child the messenger.

This is an important one throughout the entire year but especially during holidays. It may be uncomfortable to talk with your ex, but it’s even more uncomfortable for your child to be the go-between.

5. Assuming everything is “okay.” 

Just as with adults, remember that the holidays can be exciting and fun but also stressful for children.

Children and teens express their stress in different ways so be open to “hearing” them if they’re short-fused, angry or isolating. Sometimes a simple acknowledgment that you know it’s hard for them too and you’re there for them can go a long way!

Co-parenting can be challenging 365 days a year, but it’s generally easier if both parents put their child first and do their best to respectful of the other parent. Being respectful of the other parent also includes communicating about shared values and when possible have consistent rules between both households.