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Helping Children Cope with Divorce: 5 Tips for Dealing with Your Ex at Christmas

How do I help my kids have a good Christmas when the family is split? asked a worried parent.

You can keep the merry in Merry Christmas for the kids even if you and their other parent are at odds. You cannot control the behavior of their other parent but here are some suggestions for working with your children’s other parent as the Christmas holidays approach.

MAKE CHRISTMAS ABOUT THE KIDS rather than about your divorce-related issues or squabbles. The question is, “how can I work with their other parent to make Christmas as smooth and happy as possible for our children?” Set aside your differences for a while and keep the kids first. If your children’s other parent is totally absent or doesn’t cooperate, you can still focus on the positive with your children.

MIND YOUR MOTIVES, even if your ex switches the plan or irritates you in some way, be careful to avoid any actions on your part that would intend to drive a wedge between your kids and their other parent.

COMMUNICATE AND PLAN AHEAD. Talk with the kids’ other parent out of ear shot of the kids. Before you talk consider several Christmas plan scenarios that would work for you and ask the other parent if any of the options would work for him/her.

Once you agree on a general plan, outline the details such as times and transportation. Make the plan something that is workable for the kids. For example don’t overload them with two huge turkey dinners in one day.

Write out the agreed upon plan and send it to your ex so that you are sure you both have the same understanding of the agreement. Once the plan is set, tell your kids so they know what to expect. Keep your side of the family informed as well.

COORDINATE GIFT GIVING. Do your best to coordinate your kids’ wish list with all involved to eliminate duplication of gifts. Remember, Christmas isn’t about competitive gift giving. Trying to out give the other side of the family misses the point of Christmas. Be practical and stay in your budget. Expensive gifts that over tax your budget can never replace spending quality time with your children

CELEBRATE SEPARATELY even though it may seem like a good idea to try to have Christmas together. Some divorcing or divorced couples may be able to pull off celebrating Christmas together, but here is the problem, especially in the first few years. Trying to have Christmas together with your ex may be what your kids want but may in fact not be a good idea for the kids. Yes, they may be happy about it but kids generally want their parents to reunite. Christmas together may give them false hope unless you are in fact reuniting.

The more you can work together to create a great Christmas for your children the better. However, remember you cannot control their other parent. You can only request their cooperation. Even if the other parent is uncooperative, you can still make parenting choices that create a nice Christmas for your children.

This is part 1 of a 3 part series. Click the title below for Part 2…

“Helping Children Cope with Divorce: Christmas is Different Now

Christian Thought:
That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

Matthew 6:25-27

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