I handle a lot of custody matters. At this time of year, families where the parents and/or grandparents are not living together have similar and stressful issues. Everyone wants their child’s holiday to be a happy and memorable one. After 2 decades of working with children and families and after consulting with child psychologists about what children need, I’ve learned a few things that might be helpful for you and your children.
First, the holiday cannot be and does not need to be perfect. What it needs to be is a day without fighting, without guilt and without fear. Assure your child that there is more than 1 way to celebrate a holiday and that the more people and places he/she celebrates with, the more ways there will be to have fun. If you celebrate Christmas and you have little ones, assure them that Santa knows where they will sleep on Christmas Eve and where they will be on Christmas Day (or any other day they celebrate with their other families). After all, if Santa is smart enough to make his reindeer fly, he is smart enough to find each and every little boy and girl.
Second, especially if this is the first year in separate households, help your child decide how to celebrate the holiday. Help suggest new ideas or traditions that will make it a very special time. If in the past, the children always helped make cookies, maybe this is the year they learn how to decorate candles. Also, help them pick out gifts for the parent and grandparents, aunts and uncles who are no longer part of your celebration. Celebrate your child’s family!
Finally, no fighting with your ex. This is the season to model the behavior you want your child to learn. Walk away from the taunts. Become deaf to the threats. Act as if there is nothing more important than being happy and serene. If you act that way, there will be no one for others to fight with.
The holidays are not a Bing Crosby movie. They are not even about locating the Grinch and taking him down. They are about giving your child the chance to enjoy family without worry or fear. And isn’t that the best gift of all?