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Holiday Child Custody How-To

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Just when you think everyone is comfortable with the custody agreement, the holidays come around again. We asked an expert for tips on surviving the annual dilemma.

parents fighting

Reese Witherspoon is in the same boat as millions of mothers. She recently talked to People about how she and ex husband Ryan Phillippe are handling splitting time with the children over the holidays saying, "I think the most important thing is to be a grownup and not let any kind of feelings affect how you deal with your children."

Our momlogic expert agrees. We spoke to Rachel Sarah from the number one single mother blog SingleMomSeeking.com and author of Single Mom Seeking. Rachel's ex (ironically) stepped out on her and her daughter on Thanksgiving day eight years ago and offered us these great tips for surviving holiday custody dilemmas:

  • Keep the focus on the children. Remember that the holidays are really are about your child. They may bring up anxiety, stress and resentment for you, but it's important to unload them on your peers and confidants privately and keep those feelings out of your children's ear shot.

  • Try to manage at least a little bit of "togetherness." It is ideal for your children to have the both of you together at some point during the festivities. For example, if you have custody of your kids this Thanksgiving, you might invite your ex for a glass of wine or for desert. It may only be a half hour, but If you set your feelings aside for that short time, it will mean a lot to your child.

  • Don't get hung up on what's typical -- make new traditions. Whatever shape and form the holiday now takes, it's important to be flexible. For instance, my ex isn't even the picture. What matters to my daughter is that she gets to be with both of her grandparents, her aunt and her mom -- that she gets to have all of her family in one room. I'm the one who had to let go of the idea of what's "traditional." The holidays are not about husband and wife. They are about family and sometimes families create new traditions.

  • Have the children involved in the planning. There are art projects like creating ornaments or seating cards that children can help create. This can also help you take the focus off of your own stress and create new traditions. Have them help plan the menu and maybe help you cook too. Also, make sure they are comfortable with the plan. Even if your children are young, you can give them the outline of the day so that there are no surprises.

  • Keep the other parent in mind. For example, if you have your child for Christmas Eve, don't bring them home at midnight. And, talk to the other parent about what gifts they are giving. You don't want to "out give" the other parent or give your child the same present.

Rachel adds that you should expect your child to have a meltdown. The holidays are over-stimulating for you, so imagine what it's like for a child. She says remember not to take take it personally. If your child has a tantrum or breaks down, just hold them close and let them have their feelings. She also wants assure everyone that every year it DOES get easier!

How do you deal with custody issues around the holidays?


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4 comments so far | Post a comment now
mariah November 17, 2008, 4:54 PM

We swith off even and odd years. If I have the kids for xmas in the even years then he gets them for Thanksgiving. And vice versa. I don’t understand why parents argue over it

Anna November 17, 2008, 8:51 PM

My daughter will be with me every xmas eve until 1pm xmas day. Then she goes to her dad’s parents house w/ him. I’m planning to take her there. It’s good to be a little flexible. Last year… she went to her dad’s parents the day before xmas eve.. on xmas eve morning they did the whole opening presents under the tree thing.. so they all got to experience that with her and she got to be with them for that too.
lots of different arrangements work. It’s still a little hard on everyone though.

kelly November 18, 2008, 11:12 AM

it can be very tough, liek the article said…you have to be a grown up. it’s not the childs fault you aren’t with the other parent anymore. try to do whats best for the child and fair for the parents. its hard sometimes to find the middle, but if you keep your children in mind, it gets easier.

Patty Duke November 18, 2008, 2:46 PM

I have been threw this and can be a nightmare.


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