I am not going to sugar coat this. Or find some professional way of saying it.
There are a lot of things about having a divorced parents or being in a blended family at Christmas time that completely, totally and utterly SUCK.
Yep that’s right, it sucks!
(For obvious reasons, I don't use the word "sucks" very often. But in this case it seems like the most appropriate choice)
The season goes by so quickly, and when you’re splitting your time there just doesn’t seem to be enough for all the activities, traditions and gatherings.
Plus it can be challenging to coordinate schedules, so that everyone sees everyone. In our family, each year, no matter how hard we try, someone always misses out.
But for many, it's reality. It's just the way it.
As with most things in blended family life, the key is to make the best of your situation. It's about creating a system and a mindset shift, that allows the holidays to be enjoyable for everyone... especially the kids!
Here are a few tips to help you make that happen!
1. BE FLEXIBLE & OPENED MINDED
Growing up, one of the benefits of having divorced parents was that at Christmas, we had double the celebration.
One parent had Christmas Eve and the other had Christmas Day. We would do Christmas Eve traditions with one parent, and then head to the others to do it again! It didn’t matter what day it was, come Christmas Day Night we all pretended it was Christmas Eve all over again!
I used to feel terrible leaving my Dad alone on Christmas Eve, but he would always reassure me and say “I want you to go and have fun... Christmas is when I am with my kids… Even if it means we do it in July”
To this day, I think that is such an admirable attitude for a divorced parent.
The date on the calendar doesn’t have to dictate when you celebrate.
2. PLAN YOUR ACCESS SCHEDULE FAR IN ADVANCE
If your Agreement lays out your schedule during the holidays, great! You're ahead of the game but if not, I highly recommend planning your schedule in advance... DOWN TO THE LAST DETAIL.
Have drop off and pick up times arranged. Decide who is doing the driving and where the exchange will take place. All the nitty-gritty details of your holiday season should be mapped out as far in advance as possible, especially if there is a history of having disagreements.
This way, everyone knows what to expect and when to expect it, and there are (hopefully) no last-minute stresses or miscommunications.
3. PLAN YOUR HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES AT THE BEGINNING OF DECEMBER
I want my stepchildren to be included in all of our family traditions, but our week-on-week-off access schedule makes it difficult to get activities in.
A few years ago, we flew by the seat of our pants over the holiday season, and life got in the way. There simple wasn't enough time to do all the things that we wanted to do.
Favourite Christmas movies went unwatched. Favorite cookies weren’t made. We didn’t even get around to seeing Santa. Talk about "stepmom-guilt"
Now at the beginning of December, I map out our month and FIND TIME to do all the things we want to do! I even slot in movie nights and baking days! This way we find time for all of our favourite traditions!
4. DON'T FIGHT
It’s supposed to be the happiest time of year, so try your best to not sweat the small stuff and to look at the big picture.
Remember what they say, "sometimes peace if better than being right"
If there does happen to be a disagreement about the Christmas schedule or what the kids are doing this holiday season, make sure they don't know anything about it!
The last thing you want is for them to look back on their childhood and remember their parents getting into a blow out about the Christmas schedule. You want their memories to be a positive!
5. REMEMBER YOUR CHILDREN ARE NOT POSSESSIONS - BE FLEXIBLE WHENEVER POSSIBLE
Is your ex-requesting that the kids attend a family celebration on "your day?" - If you don't have anything planned, switch it.
(Even if you're sure they wouldn't do the same for you)
Do they want to do something with the kids when it is “your time”? - Try to accommodate it.
You don't want the kids to miss out!
Put your differences aside and remember it’s not the kid's fault that their parents aren’t together — they shouldn’t have to miss out on activities they would otherwise attend, because of court orders and access schedules!
I often hear parents say “that’s my time with the kids” and “the kids are mine that week” …
Essentially, that's true. But children are not possessions, they are little people, and it’s really not fair for them to miss out on traditions and parties with their family and friends just because their parents aren’t together.
Remember, having a successful Holiday season with a blended/divorced family is all about redefining what your “Perfect Holiday Season” looks like, being flexible, prepared and picking your battles!
Do those things, and you'll be one step closer to setting yourself up for a successful Holiday Season!
This post was originally published in December 2015.