The holiday season can be stressful - add a divorce and shared custody into the mix and it could easily become disastrous,
Family law attorney and mediator Alisa Peskin-Shepherd of Transitions Legal PLLC is here to help.
She's provided the following tips:
1. Maximize your together time. When the kids are around, put all phones and devices into a basket and focus on each other. Play board games, cook or bake, take walks in the woods (even when it's cold!) and focus on sharing experiences that connect you with those you love. Shared moments make great memories and show kids how much you love them!
2. Focus on what is good. Don't disparage, bad-mouth or otherwise cast aspersions on the other parent. Rather, focus on all the blessings of your life. Find reasons to be grateful and articulate them to your children. Even with limited means, find little ways to show gratitude - handmade cards, letters of love, homemade meals and more. Make it a practice to share one great thing about the day when you sit together around the dinner table.
3. Remember that kindness is the word of the season. When we feel down, we often take our sadness out on others. Be kind to yourself, so that you can be kind to others. Run bubble baths for yourself or the kids, bake brownies together and eat them without guilt, compliment your children for the littlest things. Even set an example for your children by being extra-kind to cashiers and waitstaff, let other drivers in in traffic, and exhibit other examples of kindness out in the community so this value will seep into your family's ethos.
4. Don't be a Scrooge - let go of grudges against your ex. If at all possible, wish a happy holiday to your ex - whether through your own gift, quick card or easy text message. If you aren't at that point yet, be good to your ex through your children by guiding them to make or buy gifts for their other parent and be generous enough to foot the bill. Your ex will know who was really behind such generosity, and it will go a long way in your co-parenting relationship down the road.
5. Celebrate whenever the kids are with you. If your parenting time arrangement gives the whole holiday to one parent each year, don't despair! Holidays can be celebrated early, late or on-time. It's not the day and time that counts; it's how you celebrate. Hang stockings in November or January if you won't be together in December; give Thanksgiving gifts in anticipation of time apart. Find ways to celebrate on regular days so the holidays don't come with such pent-up expectations - and disappointments.
6. Give gifts that are meaningful - including the gifts of time and attention. While we all like a little loot at the holidays, experiences are more memorable and impactful. Sometimes a divorce can leave single parents without much money to spend. Make meaning this holiday season with homemade or handmade gifts or better yet, experiences that create lifelong memories. Hikes in the woods, snowball fights in the backyard, movie nights with homemade popcorn and everyone piled together on the couch are just a few ways to maximize meaning this holiday season. And when it comes to gifts, consider giving your children the gift of experiences - extracurricular classes either on their own or with you, gym or yoga memberships that you share, tickets to a local play or concert. Anywhere you go together gives you something to connect back to when you're apart.