Divorced parents: surviving the Holidays

I have now been separated for three years, and we alternate every Christmas to avoid arguments over where the kids will spend the holiday. To make it through the holidays when I don’t have my daughter, I spend a lot of time with my nieces and nephews. Before I got separated, I didn’t pay attention or enjoy the small things. But now, I appreciate every little moment, every breakfast, every laughter with my daughter.

In my family, the transition takes place at 10 a.m. on the 25th. The kids spend Christmas Eve with me, wake up with me on the 25th, and then get picked up by their dad and spend a few days with him. Everything is pretty much organized around the custody schedule, but everyone understands that that’s how things are in a single-parent family. In fact, I think it helps my kids understand that the actual date is not that important. You can celebrate whenever you want!

I now let my nine-year-old daughter decide, but when she was younger, she was with me on the 24th and with her dad on the 25th. We switched every year and I always tried to make the best out of the day we spent together!

A truce to be together?

Making a truce to restore our original family demands great flexibility and understanding. It can work if everyone puts water in their wine and avoids making derogatory remarks or insinuations that would certainly ruin the magic. Celebrating together is almost impossible to do in the first year of separation because the two ex-spouses need time to grieve. This option can also be confusing for children, who might see it as a possible reconciliation. Kids often hope for reconciliation for years – every day of the year – so it’s important to be careful before deciding to celebrate Christmas together. If both parents are single, it’s easier, but otherwise, it can be a nightmare. Can we expect the father to want to spend time with the mom’s new boyfriend, or that the new boyfriend will want to chat with the ex? Unless you’ve reached a really great agreement, it is best not to confuse the kids during the holidays and give them false hopes of reconciliation.

Not in the mood to celebrate?

Being separated, you will likely find yourself alone at one time or another during the holiday season. Attending a party in your family without your children can be difficult. Some decide to skip it all together, others force themselves to go, and others decide to make new plans. No matter what you decide, just listen to yourself. If the thought of attending a party where kids – but not yours – are running around and having fun is too painful to you, simply call the hosts to inform them that you’re skipping your turn this year. No need to go into details.

Christmas without your children will not be easy. Don’t look too far ahead, just take it one Christmas at a time. No Christmas will be the same, but try to draw inspiration and energy from it to make every holiday a memorable moment.

When you’re separated, Christmas obviously requires a good deal of adaptation, but most of all, it requires a lot of love. Enough love to listen, witness and understand that your children are having fun with their other parent and are comfortable enough to tell you all about it. That's part of the Christmas magic.

Despite all these confusing emotions, try your best to focus on the holiday magic and cherish each second you spend with your loved ones!

Image de Nadine Descheneaux
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