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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

Rachel Sarah, a.k.a. Single Mom Seeking, knows firsthand how difficult it is to deal with broken families over the holidays -- Rachel's ex stepped out on her and her daughter on Thanksgiving day eight years ago. She offers us these great tips for surviving holiday custody dilemmas:

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

  • Try to manage at least a little bit of "togetherness." It is ideal for your children to have 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 dessert. 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 in 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 making 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 overstimulating for you, so imagine what it's like for a child. She says remember not to 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 to assure everyone that every year it DOES get easier!

How do you deal with custody issues around the holidays?

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2 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jamie November 22, 2009, 7:19 PM

For us the holidays have definetly gotten easie evey year. The most important thing is to let go and be flexible. My step-sons are close enough we either split Thanksgiving, or one has them thanksgiving day and the other on the weekend, and we just do our thanksgiving whenever we have them. Adding divorced grandparents complicates things even more when we are having three and four thanksgiving dinners over the weekened.
When it comes to December it helps that my husbad is Jewish and their mom is Christian. So we have the boys for Hannukah and their Mom gets them Christmas morning.

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