If you are newly divorced or separated, your family is going through many changes. And regardless of what month you get divorced or how well-adjusted you are, when the holiday season rolls around, it always seems to bring new challenges. There are two things you can do to make facing holidays after divorce less painful. First, go ahead and expect grief to rear its ugly head at least a little. It almost always does and expecting it lessens the impact. Second, make detailed plans for maintaining a positive environment for both you and your kids, even amidst so much change.
Permanent Parenting Plan
In Tennessee, divorcing spouses are encouraged to try to work together to create a “permanent parenting plan” or PPP. It is generally in the best interest of all involved to try to work together as amicably as possible.
When splitting up parenting time voluntarily, parents should be aware that:
- The best interests of the child trump ALL other considerations;
- In the absence of abuse or a protective order, the law intends to foster healthy relationships between the child and each parent;
- Because of this intent, it is generally best to make efforts to ensure that each parent receives the maximum parenting time possible; and
- General terms like “reasonable visitation” or “visitation as per the party’s agreement” are not specific enough and more detail is often required.
In other words, the couple needs to be detailed when deciding how to share parenting time after a divorce. This is especially true of holidays and school breaks.
Parenting Plan Holiday Schedules
For instance, one couple might prefer that the kids spend Christmas Eve with one parent and Christmas Day with the other on a rotating yearly basis. Others may decide that one parent gets the children for Christmas, but the other gets from the 26th until New Year’s Day. Each couple can construct the parameters as they see fit, as long as both agree and sign off on the terms.
If the couple cannot reach an agreement, the judge will decide how parenting time is shared. However, when a judge makes this decision for you, the chances are good that no one will get what they want. So it is best to use a seasoned attorney to help you and your spouse reach an amicable solution.
Tips for Facing Holidays After a Divorce
When you must face the holidays alone after a divorce, it is almost always difficult even under the best circumstances. Emotions run high this time of year, so it’s best to have a plan for dealing with whatever comes your way.
Attempt to Keep Traditions or Make New Ones
Try to distribute family traditions between you and your spouse so your children’s holidays feel as normal as possible. But be open to creating new traditions with your kids as well. For instance, if you always made gingerbread houses with the kids, decide who “gets” that tradition this year. If you agree to let your spouse have that tradition, be ready to replace it with something the kids have never done before. This can help make the holidays less redundant for children and give you something new to look forward to as well.
Communicate and Be Flexible
Keep the lines of communication open as much as possible during the holidays. No matter how meticulously you plan, something can come up that means moving plans around a little. Try to remain open and flexible so that if anything comes up you both can handle it without tempers flaring.
You also should discuss how to handle gifts. Discussing gifts helps avoid setting up the precedent where parents try to “outdo” each other every year. This type of gifting one-upmanship is detrimental to parents and children, so avoid it at all costs. Discussing gifts can also avoid the disappointment of receiving duplicates.
Finally, you should talk about how to handle little ones who resist the new schedule. If your child is likely to cry and fuss when it’s time to be with the other parent, make a plan. Decide how you will work together to calm the child down and assure them that all is well.
Never Bad Mouth Your Ex
This is a basic rule of thumb for all divorcing couples. Bad mouthing your ex is bad form and hurts your children. If you need to vent, phone a friend. And if you discover that your ex is bad-mouthing you, it may be time to contact your attorney.
Take a Social Media Break
This is the time of year when happy families love to post photos of themselves in matching pajamas, posing with Santa Claus, and a whole host of other happy family images. Don’t torment yourself. Take a break from social media. We promise you won’t miss much.
Care for Yourself
Be sure to take care of your own needs as well. When your ex has the kids, ask yourself what you could do to make yourself happy. That may be spending time with friends or going to a party. Or it may be spending time alone curled up with a good book and a cup of cocoa. Whatever makes you feel good, treat yourself. But be careful not to isolate too much. Excessive isolation can lead to depression, so make sure you’re not hiding from reality or your own feelings.
Facing holidays after divorce is easier when the seasoned divorce legal team at Batson Nolan PLC help you plan ahead. If you hire us during your divorce, we can help you carve out a parenting plan that meets your needs. If your divorce is final and you don’t like your parenting plan, you may qualify for a modification. Call us today or contact us online to set up a free consultation in our Clarksville or Springfield office.