The holidays after a divorce are never easy. Fraught with endless uncertainties, the holiday time period is disturbing and unrelenting in emotional turmoil for the newly divorced, regardless of gender. The holidays, book-ended by Thanksgiving and Christmas, or other religious holiday, are a seemingly unending challenge for who will have the kids? For how long? Will they be able to stay over? All this, creating endless worry and stress for the newly divorced as they suffer through their first holiday period without the kids and their significant other.
The Holidays After A Divorce and Without the Kids
Yeah, the first holiday after a divorce is a scary one. It’s not normal to be without the kids. They’ve always been around and there is great comfort with their presence. But, now, the divorce is over and the kids are with Mom. More importantly, they are not with you. And, it hurts. Wrestling over who will have the kids and when they’ll be over is a great struggle as we try to reestablish some degree of normality. We are resetting or establishing new traditions and new norms that hopefully we can count on and rely on for years to come. That’s what makes life bearable and predictable.
Divide and Conquer. Your first option when it comes to any holiday is to divide and conquer. And by this I mean the day itself, not your ex. What this means is that both you and your ex, and presumably your extended families, get to see the children on the day in question. While this sounds like a win-win for the adults it can be exhausting and confusing for the children, particularly if they are still quite young. Dinner times need to be negotiated. If the unwrapping of gifts are involved, schedules can be very tricky. If a tradition such as a parade or the attending of a service needs to be factored in, your entire day may be spent looking at your watch, clipboard in hand as you wave people on to the next event.
If your children are under the age of 10, the idea of divide and conquer will be even more difficult for them to understand. Offering explanations to the escalating question of “why” can be extremely difficult when family is watching. Consider the holiday from their point of view when answering why they have to leave now when they just got started playing with their cousins, or just unwrapped the coolest toy ever, or they’re just having fun and don’t want to stop. Travel time can be a hassle, weather conditions may come into play and children who fall asleep in the car will not be at their finest when they wake up in a new location, out of sorts, tired and wondering where the other parent went.
If you think you are going to outsmart your ex by taking them earlier rather than later, remember that they will likely be exhausted from the night before. Anticipation of the big day may have kept them awake later than normal. Do your little angels morph into screaming hot messes of taffeta and shirttails when told they have to leave? Do they throw caution and their little backs to the wind when told it’s time to go? The question of “why” now carries much more weight, more syllables and is likely asked at a pitch that makes cats leave the room.
If you think taking them second is the way to go, remember that there will be no naps that day. Let the full implications of that statement settle in before you make your decision. Consider also that whatever festivities you have in mind will have to follow their earlier predecessor. While your little bundles of joy may not be able to fully and adeptly make comparisons, keep your self and your own sanity in mind as you field questions that start with ‘well how come you’re not” followed by any number of innocent queries. Is this is a box you want to unwrap at Grandma’s house?
Concede. If the picture of sugarplum meltdowns sounds a bit much for you during these holidays after a divorce, there is the option to concede. Concede the holiday completely to the ex in the name of peace and tranquility for your children. Allow them a full day of relaxation and enjoyment and allow them to just be where they are. No schedule, no split day. Just presence. The trade off for conceding an entire holiday is that they really do grow up so fast. Phrases like, “No that was the one we spent with Mom, not you.” will happen. While this may be par for the course when the ex lives in another city or state, it may be very difficult to spend a holiday in the same zip code as your children and know that you won’t get to see their smiling faces. Which leads me to our third option. Dust off your tutu and get ready to declare it so.
Declare It So. The silver lining to your first set of Reverse Firsts when your children are young is that you get to make the new normal. You get to decide which traditions stay, which go and the level of enthusiasm and normalcy with which these changes are presented. I call it the Tooth Fairy Effect. Whether your child comes to you the next morning having found a nickel or a hundred dollar bill under her pillow for her lost tooth, your reaction is the same. Your reaction is that she has shown you the most exciting thing ever. And based on your reaction, she will agree. Declaring it so means that you are declaring your own market rate as it pertains to holidays. If you want to celebrate 1 day or 1 week later, then so be it. Just do it with all the enthusiasm and gratitude you can muster. And if you need to wear a tutu, so be it.
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The Thanksgiving holiday is now in the past, and Christmas is fast approaching. This is a tough time of year for any divorced parent who is not the primary care giver. This is especially true for divorced Dads as they are least likely to be the primary care giver. Kids naturally gravitate to spending time with their custodial parent which is with whom they spend most of their time. They view their custodial home as ‘their home’ and they don’t naturally think of Dad’s place as ‘their home’. It might not seem fair, but it’s reality.
To find more time with your kids during the holidays, you must act more cohesively than ever with your Ex. You have to co-parent on holidays to get the most from your kids and get the most for yourself. Keep in mind, this is not about you, Dad. This is about your kids and what they want and what they need.
Holidays are full of traditions. Your kids likely have traditional things that they do with Mom. Maybe they bake cookies and decorate the tree while drinking their favorite cocoa. But, what traditions have you established with your kids? What have you done to create new traditions for you and your loved ones? Time is on your side and you have time to think of new ways to connect with your kids. If possible, go out and cut down a fresh Xmas tree. Go Christmas caroling with them. If you have daughters, take them to the Nutcracker. If you have boys, take them hiking in the woods or camping in nature. There are lots of creative things you can do to establish new traditions. But it starts with you.
Co-Parenting Agreements Can Help
Some divorced families stick to rigid scheduling around holidays that have either been agreed to previously, or are court ordered. While it can ease co-parenting tensions to have clearly defined dates set far ahead of time, I also believe it is valuable to have flexibility.
After our separation, the mother of my daughter and I had a detailed support agreement to rely on when issues arose. We used that as the final say, though in most circumstances we simply communicated effectively about what our needs were, what our child’s desires were, and sought to find resolutions among our choices that would best benefit our kid.
His and Her Holidays
I recommend having at least one holiday a year that is “yours” and one holiday a year that is “hers” and work to keep those traditions in line as much as possible. I would also suggest that these holidays are not the big ones like Christmas and Easter (or Hanukkah and Pesach if you’re a Jewish family).
Making permanent co-parenting schedules for minor holidays can help to ease the tensions surrounding the major ones, and also ensures you will have the opportunity to have at least one special time of year with your kids, where you can instill traditions, knowledge and that cherished feeling of family togetherness.
Family Traditions of Her Side of the Family
Thanksgiving has always been a pretty big deal for my ex’s side of the family. My daughter’s mother has a large extended family with three great aunts and many cousins. One of the great aunts had made it a tradition, years before my daughter was born, that she would visit the rest of the family every Thanksgiving.
On the other hand, while my family isn’t small, we also don’t have long standing Thanksgiving traditions. I’d love for my daughter to spend that holiday with me and could easily have argued for my rights within the stipulation agreement, where it outlines we trade holidays yearly. Honestly, the only real point in doing so would be to disrupt my ex’s family’s traditions and assert my own egotistical needs.
Instead, when we first looked at holiday times, we decided since Thanksgiving was an important one for her family, my ex would always have our daughter for Thanksgiving, and I would always have my daughter for Halloween (which happens to be one of my favorite holidays).
Special Time With Daddy’s Girl
From the time my daughter was old enough to trick or treat, until the year she graduated high school, we have had almost every Halloween together, and over that time we also established life-long friend for her that joined us in our celebrations.
Equally over that time, my daughter has enjoyed the richness of her mother’s traditions concerning Thanksgiving and will hopefully want to continue those into her adult life. Personally, I really look forward to a Halloween evening out with my adult daughter some year.
Here’s That Flexibility Thing Again
Over the course of my daughter’s life, there have certainly been one or two times when this has changed for various reasons (one year the great aunt was sick, and my sister in Texas asked if we could join them, so we switched it around that year), though for the most part, those holidays have become the least stressful of our planning year. My daughter came to expect Thanksgiving with mom and Halloween with dad, which also created ease for her.
Co-Parenting on Holidays and School Vacations, Too!
Concerning the major winter and spring holiday breaks for schoolchildren, I would recommend a flexible approach that places emphasis on raising the children with the influence of both families over time. An “every other year” policy seems to be the best, at least from what I have experienced.
Again, it is important to listen to your kids. Ask what they want concerning holidays (once they are old enough to reason, of course) and do your best to accommodate.
Bottom line: When holidays and vacations are approaching, work to plan far in advance with your ex. If you know that next spring break your side of the family is planning a reunion, don’t wait until three weeks from break to start asking your ex and your child how they feel about the vacation. Co-parenting on holidays and vacations can be stress free if you start negotiating as soon as you know about special events.
My ex and I were pretty good at scheduling on holidays and vacations. We often had our daughter’s summer schedule worked out by late winter!
Early negotiating made long term planning much easier on us both, and gave our daughter the comfort and security of knowing where and when she would be while on school breaks. My daughter was never left hanging until the last minute, and could make advance plans with other kids that live where she would be on break.
Co-parenting Conflict Resolution
No matter how carefully you plan, no matter how good your relation with your ex is, there will be times when you have to find a resolution to a scheduling conflict.
Obviously, one of you will have to give in. Let’s not make a big deal out of it, okay?
Listen, as the years go by, the important thing is your continued presence in your child’s life, and one holiday isn’t going to make the difference. Keep that in mind as you negotiate.
By the same token, it is important to give your children routines that they are comfortable and familiar with. One of these is keeping holiday schedules intact. Though it isn’t critical to adhere too strictly, it is definitely a good idea to keep a comfortable schedule your children are familiar with when possible.
The Art of Negotiation
Giving your kids routines around the holidays (and frankly, around just about any recurring activities in their lives) provides them a sense of comfort and security.
So, let’s say you both want to spend the 4th of July taking your kids to see fireworks. What can you do?
Well, the most obvious first question is; do you already have a set routine between your ex and yourself concerning this holiday?
For the sake of argument, we are going to assume that she normally has custody on this holiday. You’re disturbing the co-parenting routine with your request. So, be certain to ask yourself how important is it that you get the kids? Do you just want to spend time with them on a date you normally don’t, or is there a compelling reason to ask your ex to shift schedules (family in town, great deal on a houseboat, special activities for the kids, etc.)
If you honestly believe the children will benefit more from time with you than from their established previous routines on this holiday, then you should proceed with careful negotiation.
I feel the first fair proposal to make your ex is to see if you and she can both spend time with the kids on the holiday. This makes a huge impact over the years, when kids can see their parents interacting without malice.
If it is already established that you and your ex will not share a holiday together, then there is no point in trying that route. Concerning the children, the real question is what will make the most sense. If you know that having the kids will best benefit them, then I suggest you do your best to discuss your position with your ex. Explain how they will benefit, and be willing to make a counter offer.
Effective Co-Parenting On Holidays Means There Has To Be Some Give And Take
Perhaps if you take them for Independence Day, your ex will take them for Labor Day weekend when you would normally have them?
When working with your ex towards finding co-parenting holiday schedules that will work for the both of you, compromise is key. (Mostly, your compromise.)
Remember, the goal is to find the best experience for your kids. Though you may have ideas of how you want your holidays, you will have to negotiate in most cases. Always try to keep the conversation focused on the resolution, not your personal wants or desires.
Again, try to keep a bigger picture in mind. Swapping holidays is really pretty common among single parents, and unless you have some type of stipulation either clearly defining each holiday or clearly stating your rights, then there is going to be room for redefining your holiday scheduling.
I have mentioned this previously, and it bears repeating: The farther ahead you can plan holidays with your kids, the easier it will be on all involved.
The farther ahead you can plan holidays with your kids, the easier it will be on all involved.
The sooner you are aware of the need to change an existing schedule, the better the chances of getting it accomplished. Use your first available opportunity to communicate with your ex what you would propose for a change, and be willing to make concessions.
Remember, anything that isn’t already defined is going to be a disruption for her, so keep that in mind as you ask. If you know you want your kids for one holiday, perhaps you can come up with ways that taking them will actually look like support of your ex. Just being willing to work with her will make a difference, for you, for her, and most importantly, for your children.
How are you dealing with the challenges of co-parenting on holidays? Tell us what works – and what doesn’t – in the comments below!
Now is the perfect time to check out Melissa Ricker’s tips on Using Google Calendar for Effective Co-parenting. You won’t want to miss Sara Gabriella’s reasons why Co-parenting Agreements Put Your Kid’s Best Interests First.
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The mother of my daughter hates my guts. She doesn’t just dislike me; she loathes me with a passion
And yet, we have no choice but to learn to co-parent together. To be perfectly honest, she’s not really my favorite person in the world, either. However, strange as it might seem, it is more common than we might want to think in this world that you can share your greatest love with your worst enemy.
While she and I are barely civil to one another, we have never allowed this to influence how we set ground rules for our daughter.
This fact alone has allowed us to navigate the last fifteen years of our daughter’s life with a mutual understanding and respect, while maintaining a safe distance from one another.
I am proud to say that my daughter is a sweet, charming, thoughtful and delightful young lady who graduates high school with honors next month, and her mother’s and my early decision (we separated when our daughter was less than two) to keep our personal feelings for one another out of the parenting equation apparently had good results. We didn’t have to like each other to keep teaching our child to make good decisions. In a way, we are very fortunate that we were both raised with the same general principles, social mores and taboos, though we often have very differing opinions about them. And while there are certainly grey areas and some difficult negotiations along the way, we are both coming from basically the same place; we want our child to be happy, and we want to support her growth in learning to think for herself and make choices that will serve her best throughout life.
While we worked hard at putting aside our feelings and personal biases in discussing what is best for our kid, we’re polar opposites in the way we manage our personal lives, and we both take responsibility for exposing our daughter to both the good and the bad of our own personal choices, so that she might make up her own mind.
For instance, my daughter has been raised religiously non-denominational for the most part. This is not because her mother and I don’t both have our individual beliefs; but that they are not the same beliefs, and rather than force one upon our child, we decided to just let her make her own choices and make ours available to her. Her mother is a non-practicing Catholic who still celebrates Christmas and Easter; I am a reasonably practicing Jew. (Which is to say, I observe high holidays and try to at least acknowledge Shabbat.)
The fact of our different heritage has another interesting aspect for raising our daughter. Since Catholicism is passed down patrilineally, and Judaism is passed down through matrilineally, our daughter does not belong inherently to either religion. This oddity in our religious backgrounds actually forced her mother and I to take this issue very seriously and were probably some of the longest discussions we ever had concerning her upbringing. (The other big issue for us became medication, as our daughter was diagnosed with ADHD early in her life, and it has been an area where we disagreed on appropriate treatment, which in turn forced us to have very passionate dialogues about what was important to us.)
While this could have become a really difficult part of parenting, instead it became perhaps the most important aspect for us in learning how to parent together while separate. Because this particular aspect of raising our daughter was a bridge that could not be crossed, what we had to learn early on was how to share our differences to our daughter without making the other party out to be “wrong”.
Now, in some ways, I have to admit that this particular aspect of my parenting might leave others angry or questioning. Even from members of my own faith I have experienced a small and subtle backlash in choosing not to push my personal beliefs upon my child. Still, I am fortunate that her mother shares similar views. So we choose to focus instead on things that we both agree are important. Instead of teaching about Jesus or God (or Buddha, Mohammed, etc.) we talked about sustainability, responsibility, compassion, conservation, philanthropy and other core values we mutually consider important. These are principles that are demonstrable and have proven results. We are also pretty solidly agreed on our lessons concerning work, school, play, friends, and a host of other subjects, so in the grand scheme of “what our kid needs to know”, religion really is pretty low on the totem. We feel that we can talk about religion when she brings it up.
I believe the only truly morally responsible act to take as separate parents is for both to strive to keep the welfare of the child or children the most significant part of any communication, and to strive to create harmonious outcomes (or at least ones that are fair compromises) concerning consequences and rules.
Whenever possible, you should agree on basic principles and expectations and be consistent in both homes:
- If a behavior is not allowed at one house, for example, it shouldn’t be tolerated at the other
- If a punishment is meted out by one parent, it should be upheld by the other
- Curfews should be consistent, as well as what “grounding” means in your home.
- Don’t try and out-do one another on things like allowance and tooth fairy visits – take turns or divvy them up, but always keep them equal
- Compromise on things like healthy eating and the amount of sugar intake, have zero sugar at one house and a veritable treasure trove of gummy bears at the other won’t help anyone
While your child might seem innocent and you are confident they have been brought up well, the urge to play one parent off the other, especially when the parents hate each other and can barely communicate with one another, is just to delicious and irresistible to a child who wants something really, really bad. It becomes easy, and before you know it, they will master the art of lying and manipulating to get their own way. Don’t ever underestimate how smart they are, and don’t make the mistake of thinking they aren’t listening and seeing what is going on when you least expect it.
Don’t Forget Another Very Important Factor
Make sure your new partners respect your wishes with your ex, and are on board with your plans in being consistent. It isn’t a competition. If you aren’t in agreement with your ex, and your new partner supports you in that decision, you can escalate very quickly to a situation that is not manageable without being in a constant state of anger and frustration, or heading back down the very expensive road of court costs.
You don’t have to like your ex, but you have to work together where the kids are concerned. After all, you made them together, right? Well, now you have the responsibility of raising your kids together…and that means getting on the same page when it comes to parenting, even if in no other aspect of your relationship. You owe it to your kids.
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For you, my incredibly amazing, magnificent and beautiful daughter on her graduation from High School, I give this ‘Letter to My Daughter on Her Graduation.’ It was hard to write this then, and still hard to read today. Several years have passed since I first wrote this to you, and as I read it again, I’m struck by how true it still is! It will still be valid in another couple of years, and even more beyond that. You continue to amaze me daily and I’m struck so often by how you “have it!”
Hi. This is your father. Many things below I’ve said to you in person. But I believe important things are best backed up with the written word. Most of this letter is a bunch of stuff you may, or may not, decide is useful. I know when I was graduating high school I didn’t give my father’s advice much thought. But I promise you, if he had written it down for me, I guarantee I would find it valuable today. Hopefully you’ll find a few nuggets buried in this letter to my daughter now and later.
You’ll excuse me for overstepping my boundaries if you feel I have in writing it down. Since I can’t buy you a car for graduation or fly you around the world as a present when you turn 18 soon (both things I’d love to do, but alas, it ain’t gonna happen), what I can do is this. I can write a letter to my daughter. Sure, I can write you a letter any time, but I’ve decided to pour out what I consider to be the real morsels of truth in life. I’ve found these over the years, with most coming from pain and wrong choices. You’ll make those too, but maybe this letter will help you avoid the ones I made so you can go make your own, less painful ones.
To My Daughter
So… here’s the most important stuff (read this next paragraph if nothing else, please):
In all the time you have been on this planet, I have loved you more than words will ever express. You are my daughter, and I am amazed by you. Always and forever. I wish I had more to offer you than simply my pride and love, though I hope they will suffice in this moment. I’m truly in awe at what a smart, sweet, kind, caring and optimistic young woman you have become. You are quite simply the best thing that ever happened to me, and I’m really glad you’re here. I love you. Looking good, kiddo!
Now, on to the graduation address…
That I am sitting here writing to you on the eve of your high school graduation and a month before your official status as a young adult has me simply flabbergasted. I could not possibly have prepared for this day, and yet here it is. What I find more odd is how vivid my memories are of my own graduation and then later your birth. I can still see you as you were before school began for you, when the world is full of wonder. And now you are about to set out on the next chapter. I can’t describe the joy and sadness that swirl in my emotions.
You are a young lady now, hardly the small child of my memories. I haven’t the foggiest notion of how to really talk to you, though it is absolutely my honor, privilege and duty to keep trying, for as long as I live.
Truth told, I’ve never considered myself a very good father, and in many ways I’ve been simply lousy. I’m sorry is about all I can really offer. The older you get, the older I get, the more likely the struggles of my adult life will become things you know more about, and in so doing, will likely shift some of the distance between us, though it will never excuse the places where I failed you. For this, all I can do is say I’m sorry and ask for your forgiveness.
Of course, there are also many little things that I have had a part of along the way that have certainly helped shape the fine young woman you are today. I’d like to think that some of the adventures, people and places I have shown you had an impact, and that my family has had some positive growth for you as well.
Your mother and I made a deal a long, long time ago that no matter what happened, we would always do our best to teach you about the world as best we could without disparaging the other. I think it served you well. I hope it did. It wasn’t easy, for either of us.
Somehow, I missed the part where you stopped being a little girl and started becoming a young adult, and it definitely happened along the way. The young woman I see before me is really an amazing person, and I want to do everything in my power to help ensure she stays that way.
So, I’ve been watching you for awhile now, and I’d like to offer some insight into the world you are about to enter. There are things your father still knows that you do not. There are some pieces of advice you’re unlikely to hear from anyone else, and some of them may piss you off a bit, but if I don’t tell you, no one else will, and forewarned is forearmed.
Know that first and foremost, what I want for you is a joyous and happy life filled with love, friendships, adventures, learning and growing. I also know that there are going to be tough days. I hope you’ll count on me as a voice of reason and wisdom as you grow into adulthood.
Know also that no matter what anyone ever says, you are perfect just exactly as you are. You’re never going to be too short, too fat, too dark, too weak, too dumb, or anything else that people may come along and tell you that you are. Surround yourself with people who remind you of how awesome you are, and avoid the ones that don’t. The only person you need permission from, from now on, is you.
I hesitate to say this part, and I think it is necessary. The world is sometimes cruel and evil people really are out there. You have been incredibly blessed so far that perhaps the worst hardship you have endured is your father’s lack of presence. I’m not aware that you have broken any bones, required surgery or had any close friends die on you or really fuck their lives up horribly while you had to watch. While I truly don’t know what personal struggles you have overcome (though I do know that you have a perseverance about you that is admirable, and that simply learning itself has been a life long challenge for you, and may well continue to be), what I do know is that you really have lived a fairly sheltered life compared to what many children in this world endure. There are a great many “bad” places on this planet, and I hope you’ll steer well away from them, or enter only safely with a good guide. I mean this as much about real, physical places and people as I do about bad decisions and poor judgment, your father being somewhat of an expert on bad decisions and poor judgment.
Your conservative father is deeply concerned that you may not give enough credence to the idea that capable as you are, you are also diminutive, attractive and generally optimistic. While these are cherished things, they are also traits a bad person will try to capitalize on. I don’t want you to be afraid of the world in any sense, and I do want you to be prepared.
My second really important point I want to get through to you is this: There is a huge, amazing world out there, too. Go see it.
You aren’t in a hurry, of course, and I don’t want to see you wasting a minute of your life longer than you have to here. There is an entire planet out there, and you should strive to see as much of it as you can. My largest regret in life is that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunities presented to me to travel in my youth. I got scared and stayed put. Don’t let your fear of the unknown keep you from travelling abroad or moving out of state for college.
This point you seem to grasp really well, but I want to say it anyway: Do what makes you happy! Find your passions and do them! They are absolutely the most important real life work you have to do. When you are passionate, you energize others. When you are working with purpose, you show the way. Trust the little voice in your head when it tells you that you should make art, or plant a garden or help someone. It’s a good voice. Too many ignore it, and after some time, they lose it. I can’t imagine how different and wonderful the world might be if more people listened to that good side just every now and then. Be unique and be that one that does!
Lastly for now, (since I expect to write you again at 21 and offer you a few more pieces of wisdom that you would currently call “lecturing”), I want to remind you again of something that is becoming more and more relevant as you mature.
You are a creative person. Unquestionably. So is your dad.
So, please, help me help you.
I don’t know enough about your inside life to really know what to offer, though I am quite certain that I have some answers for you, and I don’t want to pretend I know which ones are relevant. I just hope you’ll still consider asking me when you feel you have a tough one. This old man might know some things. My life hasn’t been easy. I haven’t followed the cookie-cutter path. I’m certainly not perfect. That’s where I can help. If there is one guarantee in this life it is that you will make mistakes and you will fail at something, and actually several things. I know I have. Dealing with it is extremely tough. I can speak to you as one that’s fought through many tough times, and continues to do so. Don’t seek advice from those that just don’t know.
My dearest daughter, all I really want you to know is that you are loved and supported by many.
I am so proud of you.
With Much Love,
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Do you remember the scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when Ferris wants Cameron to come pick him up? Cameron was in bed, sick and miserable. Ferris persists until we see Cameron in the driver’s seat, furiously arguing with himself. He starts the car. Revs it up. Yells. Shuts it…
Parenting after divorce can rapidly turn into open warfare with your ex. You’re angry and frustrated, but for the sake of your children and your sanity, it’s best to come up with some basic parenting ground rules for both households, and let the rest go.
The kids need consistency. Your parenting styles don’t have to be the same, in fact, exposure to different styles can help children enhance their decision-making skills. But there are some rules you and your ex should try your best to agree on.
You may have had a good-cop, bad-cop thing going on when you were together, but your kids need more stability and consistency after divorce. If one of you is strict and the other lets them get away with murder, or one of you is always buying them new things while the other is more money conscious, it can lead to conflict with your kids and even more between you and your ex.
The thing is, you can’t make your ex change her parenting style. You can ask her to change her rules, but you can’t expect her to say yes, and she can’t expect you to say yes if you don’t want to modify the rules at your house. To move forward, parenting after divorce means you and your ex both need to be willing to do what’s best for your kids.
Negotiating Terms for Parenting After Divorce
Even if you and their mother have different parenting styles, establishing ground rules in each home keeps things consistent for your kids. Their routines and schedules should be the same – the same wake-up/bedtime, the same homework routine (only watch TV after their homework’s done), getting to school and after-school activities on time, the same curfew if they’re old enough to go out at night, etc.
Children need routines. Routines bring stability and reassure your children that change is okay and that they have support and love in each household.
1.Protect your Kids from Conflict
Kids suffer from seeing their parents arguing or hearing them bad-mouthing each other. They love both parents and see themselves as half of you and half of your ex. Hearing you bitch about their mother, or the other way around can make them feel like the mean words are meant for them, too.
If you’re not happy with the way your ex is parenting, don’t get into an argument with her about it in front of your kids. Fighting causes your children to feel stressed and anxious at a time that has already been hard on them
2. It’s How You Say It
If you tell your ex to do something, chances are she’s not going to do it. People are much more likely to consider a different point of view if they are educated about it and then asked if they’d consider changing their rules. If you explain why it’s best for your kids to read a book rather than play on their iPads before bed, and give examples where reading helped put them to sleep, she’s more likely to consider modifying her rules than if you straight out tell her to change her stupid ways.
You’re divorced now, and don’t want to put up with any more of her garbage. But, while you and your ex may not have a marital relationship anymore, you still have a parenting relationship. Instead of fighting with each other about whose parenting is right or wrong and what each should be doing differently, focus on what is and isn’t working for your children and why.
3. Suck It Up for The Kids’ Sake
When push comes to shove, your ex may not be willing to change her ways at all. As long as your kids aren’t in imminent danger, you’ll just have to suck it up to protect them from extra stress and tension. If both parents have the kids’ best interests in mind, it’s okay to have different parenting styles because ultimately your kids are being loved and supported and that’s most important of all.
If your kids are doing their homework, staying healthy, getting exercise, attending their extra-curricular activities and maintaining their responsibilities, then you are not giving in by letting go of how their mother is going about it in her house. The only thing you have to agree on is the health, well-being, and support of your children.
4. Keep Your Kids in the Loop
While you need to protect your kids from drama, you should also be communicating with your kids. If you and your ex have different rules for each house, explain to them that mom and dad are different and that they have different rules.
You can say “At daddy’s house you can drink juice, and at mommy’s house you can drink milk and water.” Don’t make one sound better or worse, and don’t try to get the kids on your side by saying, “Dad’s rules are better.” Even if they are!
Your kids should not have to choose sides. If you don’t communicate with your kids, they’ll expect the rules to be the same in each place, so make sure they’re aware of the differences. This will help the kids know where they stand in both households.
5. Consult an Expert
Can’t stop fighting? Don’t hesitate to get an expert involved. If you two are at an impasse on a big issue that has to do with your child’s education or health, enlist an expert with an objective view on what’s best for your child.
Sometimes both parents get so carried away with being right, they’re no longer thinking about what’s best for the kids. Or maybe other relatives or new partners are trying to wade in. Use the expert to cut through some of the crap and get down to what’s best for your kids.
Parenting after divorce can be a struggle, especially if you and your ex don’t see eye to eye. When you know your children get support, love, and care in both households, don’t sweat the details. You are still the best Dad they ever had.
(c) Can Stock Photo / georgemuresan
As if divorce itself isn’t bad enough, when there are kids involved, it’s even worse. In fact, most newly divorced dads would say the hardest part about divorce is missing the kids when they are with the ex-wife. Going to bed without those bedtime romps and kisses every night or waking up to a lonely, quiet house can be extremely tough.
The good news is that you’ll learn to cope with the children being away. You’ll never stop missing the kids, but you can adjust to your new lifestyle. Here are five tips for coping when you miss your kids.
Stop Beating Yourself Up
As a newly divorced dad, it is really easy to blame yourself when aren’t with the kids. After all, you chose or agreed to this divorce, right? You may catch yourself saying things like “I am a horrible father for choosing my happiness over being with my children” or “I chose to be without my kids. I should have stayed even though I was unhappy.” You may feel guilty and selfish now that the reality of shared custody has set in.
Beating yourself up when you are missing the kids isn’t going to do anyone any good. After all, would you rather have the children growing up in an unhappy home? Two separate and happy parents can be better than two unhappy parents together. Remind yourself that choosing divorce in an unhappy marriage is often best for everyone involved, including the kids. Especially if the divorce wasn’t your idea, then you had no choice and shouldn’t beat yourself up.
Keep Yourself Busy When You Are Missing the Kids
Keeping yourself occupied will not only help you pass the time when you don’t have your kids, but it will help pull you out of a slump and begin the process of rebuilding your new life. You’ll have more alone time now so you might as well start to use it and enjoy it.
Fill your calendar with enjoyable activities when the kids are with your ex. Use this time alone to get back into a long-lost hobby or do something for yourself. Read a book, see a movie, focus on your career or learn a new hobby. Treat yourself to something special. As you move on and begin to date again, plan your dating for when you won’t have the kids. This way you will have something to look forward to and focus on during the times your children are away.
Take Care of Yourself
Divorced parents are a little bit like masochists. They feel guilty for having fun or taking care of themselves when they aren’t with their children. But when it comes down to it, you must take care of yourself following a divorce if you want to be able to take care of your children. Taking care of yourself will make you a better father, and it will set a good example for your children. Divorce can lead to anxiety and depression (especially when you’re desperately missing your children), and if you don’t make an effort to take care of yourself, this can spill over to your kids. So, take the time to get the help and care that you need to make the transition to single fatherhood. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of your children.
Be Flexible with Schedule Changes
Take advantage of every chance you get to spend with your kids. While it may be tempting to say “no” to your ex’s request for you to take the kids an extra night so she can go on a business trip or a date, take the high road and think about what you want. Is your desire to hurt her or cause her grief larger than your desire to get the kids an extra day? Take advantage of the extra time and thank her for it!
Communicate with Your Children
Divorce is tough on children too. They may have similar feelings of anxiety or guilt with the new lifestyle, and they may worry about you when they go to stay with their mother. So, talk to them about it. Let them know you are going to be okay by telling them about your plans. Tell them about the book you are going to read or the old friend you plan to catch up with. Don’t let them see how sad you are when they leave. Take the burden off of them.
When you are missing the kids, you may spend hours wondering what they are up to and if they are okay. The best way to silence the worry is to ask. When you have your kids, ask about their week. Get curious. Ask about their school and their hobbies. Ask about their feelings and how they are doing. Listen to their answers. Just don’t give in to the temptation to ask too much about their mother or criticize her to the kids. The kids don’t need to be in the middle of your relationship trouble.
Enjoy the Time With the Kids
Focus on the time you will have with the kids and don’t obsess about the times you won’t. When you aren’t with your kids, think about the activities you’ll enjoy together when they come back. It doesn’t matter what you do with your kids when they are with you. You don’t have to plan extravagant outings or spend a lot of money. Just enjoy your time together. Listen to their stories, make them giggle, and soak up every moment.
There are lots of distracted parents who don’t take full advantage of the time they have with their children. They turn on the TV or browse their smartphones while the kids play instead of getting down on the floor with them. They work extra hours at work instead of making it home every night for dinner.
Divorced parents, however, typically have more appreciation of the time with their children because it is limited. Sometimes quality is more important than quantity. Focus on what you do have. Be grateful for it.
Divorce is tough, and you can expect a period of adjustment after the final decree is entered. There will be days you don’t see your children at all, and it can be easy to focus on how much you are missing the kids. This can lead to even more unhappiness and loneliness.
Remeber, you have the power to decide what to focus on. You can choose to focus on the time you do have together and make the most of the time you are away from them. Divorce changes everything, and part of that change includes personal growth and improvement in relationships – including your relationships with your kids.
While the amount of time you spend with them may decrease, the quality of the time can actually increase. Focus on the positive. It may not make you miss your kids any less, but it can help you cope and adjust to the divorced lifestyle.
(c) Can Stock Photo / krasyuk