Holland & Usry December 2018

Divorce Is Hard BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO RUIN THE HOLIDAYS

When you see holiday advertising, it almost always includes images of happy families enjoying the most wonderful time of the year together. The kids are smiling, the parents are holding hands, and everyone is drinking hot cocoa and singing their favorite Christmas song. But reality is often not that simple or straightforward. As with everything else you see on a TV commercial, it’s best to take this messaging with a grain of salt. Has anyone ever eaten a Big Mac that looks like it does on the screen? The holiday season can be a taxing time when you’re divorced and have children, especially if you’re experiencing it for the first time. As somebody who lived through his parents’ divorce as a child, I know firsthand how well the holidays can go when parents approach them selflessly. Similarly, I’ve seen countless clients deftly manage the holidays without upsetting their children — and I’ve seen a few who haven’t done as well. With that in mind, I wanted to share a few rules of thumb I’ve learned over the years to help divorced parents navigate the holidays with grace and cheer. IT’S ABOUT THE KIDS, NOT YOU OR THE OTHER PARENT This is the most important piece of advice I can give you. Remember, it’s not your time with your child; it’s their time with you. Making the holidays about you, even if all you want to demonstrate is how much you love your kids, misses the point entirely. If both parents are capable of caring for their kids, they each deserve a chance to make the holidays special for their children. THE DATE MATTERS LESS THAN THE EXPERIENCE I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen parents quarrel over who gets to see their child on the specific date of their birthday

or another significant event. Here’s a little secret: A 4-year-old kid doesn’t care which day they open presents. What they want is for somebody to take note of them and make them feel great. You can do that whether you’re opening presents on, before, or after Dec. 25. We’re conditioned to believe these dates hold serious power, but creating lasting memories isn’t dependent on the day they fall on the calendar. FOLLOW COURT ORDERS WITH A SMILE It goes without saying that a court order is legally binding and must be followed. Sometimes it can be hard, especially that first holiday season after divorce. When you have to drop your kids off at 2 in the afternoon on Christmas Day, you may be a little peeved, but don’t let the little ones know that. Simply say, “Have a great time,” and send them on their way. Don’t be resentful about a handoff, or your kids may become resentful in turn. That’s not fair for anybody. Approaching the holidays with the right mindset will give your kids an experience that’s just as awesome as when you were together — maybe even more awesome. It may be hard to put your feelings aside and keep the kids front and center, but I promise you it’s worth it. No matter how your family will look this holiday season, I hope you have a great one. –John Holland

The holidays can be a taxing time when you’re divorced and have children, especially if you’re experiencing it for the first time. As somebody who lived through his parents’ divorce as a child, I know firsthand how well the holidays can go when parents approach them selflessly.

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