If you're one of many New Jersey parents who are getting ready to navigate their first post-divorce holiday season, you might also be among those who are feeling a bit anxious about it all. Like all good parents, you want to keep your children's best interests in mind. That might be challenging, especially if you happen to have an ex who is always trying to oppose your parental authority or undermine your rights.
Laying some ground rules ahead of time and knowing where to seek support if a problem arises are key factors toward achieving a low-stress holiday season. Kids are highly adaptable, and yours will likely take their cues from you and your co-parent. As long as you're both willing to work as a team for their sake, there's no reason to anticipate trouble.
A few helpful tips, just in case
While you may not want to assume that your ex will try to throw a wrench into your holiday fun, it's a good idea to plan ahead to keep things running as smoothly as possible. The following list includes ideas that might be helpful in your situation:
- Remember that the goal is to plan a holiday season that your children can enjoy, not to fight over who gets to spend the most time with them.
- Creating a conflict-free environment is a high priority, especially if your children are still adapting to a new, post-divorce lifestyle.
- The holiday season is just that: a season. Being willing to arrange your schedule in a flexible way can prevent a lot of stress.
- Building upon that idea, there is no rule that states you must spend the holidays with your kids on the exact calendar date of the special occasion. In short, it doesn't have to be December 25 when you celebrate Christmas with your children.
- Get things in writing and seek the court's approval. It's definitely the easiest way for co-parents to avoid confusion and contention during the holidays.
- If there's a specific holiday you feel strongly about spending with your kids, such as if you happen to be Jewish and wish to celebrate Hanukkah together, incorporate the details of your plan into the terms of your co-parenting agreement.
- Feel free to trade off on holidays or to spend them together if you and your ex are able to set your differences aside long enough to provide your kids the opportunity to celebrate with both parents at once.
That last option is definitely not viable for every set of parents. If you had to fight for custody of your children or there were other parental disputes during divorce proceedings, spending the holidays together might not be in your children's best interests. The good news is that you can customize your co-parenting holiday plan to fit your children's needs and your ultimate goals as a divorced parent.
If a problem arises, it's best to try to resolve it in as swift and amicable a fashion as possible; otherwise, you risk turning a joyful holiday season into one that might prompt your children to say, "Bah, humbug."