December 2007 - Managing Your
Kids over the Holidays After a Divorce
The holidays are a wonderful time – except when your kids are cranky,
overtired, and over-stimulated. Then they are hell-a-days, not holidays. Divorced
parents find that managing the holidays can be a huge challenge. It’s
one thing to keep your child at an even pace when he only lives at one house,
but if your child is shuttling back and forth between parents’ (and possibly
grandparents’ homes) over the holidays, you’re facing a real challenge.
The Schedule is Your Bible
Because the holidays are such an up and down time, now more than ever, you must
stick to the parenting schedule. The regular schedule is definitely going to
be shaken up by the holiday schedule no matter what, but sticking to it as closely
as possible will really help. If the kids are used to going to dad’s house
every other weekend and one weeknight per week, continuing with that will help
them feel grounded and in control.
Agree on Bedtimes
Everyone knows that bedtimes go out the window when the holidays arrive. It’s
nearly impossible to have your kids home, in bed and asleep by 8 p.m. when you’re
at a family party. Talk with your ex about what is a reasonable holiday bedtime.
You might agree to try to be home by 10:30 whenever possible so that the kids
can get a decent amount of sleep. Falling asleep under Grandma’s Christmas
tree does not count as sleeping. Home and in bed does.
Try to Control the Sugar Insanity
The holidays are filled with cookies, candy, hot cocoa, and desserts. Kids deserve
a chance to have special treats within moderation, but letting it become a free
for all is a guarantee for a sick tummy and hyperactivity. Talk with your ex
about controlling sugar intake and try to agree on what the limits are. Approaching
this as a team will make things much easier than if one parent is allowing a
sugar fest while the other is trying to crack down.
Stop the Gift Competition
It’s very easy to view the holidays as a chance to show up your ex by
buying your child a better, bigger, more expensive, more exciting gift. It sounds
trite, but you really cannot buy your child’s love. Buying meaningful
gifts your child will appreciate and enjoy is a great way to celebrate the holidays,
but trying to win some undefined competition with your ex does not benefit your
child. If possible, try to talk to your ex about gifts. Some parents agree on
a spending cap or decide to chip in together on big gifts. Cooperation is the
name of the game whenever possible.
Do Not Drive a Wedge
Most kids wind up with a holiday schedule that dictates where they will be each
day. While this does allow parents to share time, it can be hard for a child
to be separated from the parent who is not there at the time. Don’t be
selfish and insist it is “your” time. Instead, be generous and suggest
your child call the other parent or make a card for him or her while with you.
Your child needs to feel connected to both parents whenever possible and if
you can reach out and allow this to happen, it will benefit everyone.