By Dr. Eileen Klitsch, Psychologist
Holidays can be rough on families, because they bring with them all the expectations of what a family is supposed to do and be like. All of our dreams of the perfect family having the perfect dinner with the perfect guests come to bear at this time of year. There are a few things we can do to lessen the disparity between our hopes and what is reality. These few simple hints can make the difference between happiness and despair for us and for our children in this coming holiday season.
Plan Ahead: Start talking with your ex about your intended plans for the holiday months ahead. Ask your teenagers for their input, knowing they may want to spend time with friends as well. A well-planned schedule will help your children know what to expect and avoid last-minute dramas.
Start New Traditions: After you and your spouse separate, it is inevitable that some family traditions you had around the holidays will no longer be possible. That does not mean that your holidays can no longer have events attached to them that you and your children talk about and look forward to all year. Be creative. Establish new traditions that you and your children can accomplish within the shortened time you will now have with them.
Coordinate Gift-Giving: Talk to your ex ahead of time about some gift ideas you have. Try to mesh those ideas so that your child does not end up with duplicate or opposing gifts. Don't feel guilty if your gifts can not be of the same monetary value as those of your spouse. Remember what's important is the love and time you share at the holidays, not the cash value of your gift(s).
Don't Overdo: Be careful not to provide too much excitement. When children celebrate the holidays twice, they sometimes can reach stimulus overload and fall apart. Be sensitive to your child's moods and needs during the holidays. And don't forget to sleep!
Encourage Your Children to Call their Other Parent: If you have the good fortune of having the children with you this holiday season, don't forget to remind them to call their other parent. Remember you will be the other parent at the next holiday, or next year, and think of how important it will be for you to hear from your children on that holiday. Your children will also feel better, knowing that they have shared that holiday with both of their parents.
So, with those suggestions in mind, prepare now to have one of the best holiday seasons you have ever had with your children. Enjoy every minute you have with them and before you know it they will be inviting you to their house for dinner with the grandchildren!
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