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Blended Families: Celebrating the holidays

How do you celebrate the holidays when blending families? With sensitivity and creativity, you can develop new traditions and routines. Read below to gain perspective and ideas.

Blended families: Celebrating the holidays

Today's ParentBy Dawn Calleja | Today’s Parent

 love Christmas. Yup, I’m one of those people: belting out schlocky tunes in the car, searching for the perfect ceiling-scraper of a tree, bawling my way through It’s a Wonderful Life. But the emotional and logistical strain wrapped up with the holidays at our house – courtesy of my husband’s four kids from two exes, in addition to our own two little ones – can bring out the Scrooge in me.

There was the time my husband’s then-five-year-old son called to tell us excitedly about the Pokémon toy Santa had delivered – the exact same one waiting for him under our tree. Or the year a tipsy ex-number-one called in the middle of our Christmas Eve party to shout that there was no way she was driving downtown to pick up the kids the next day. You get the picture.

Even for the most happily married couples, the holidays can be fraught with conflict and compromise. It can be exponentially more complicated for the approximately 776,000 Canadian parents who are divorced or separated and raising kids without a new partner. Then there are the blended families – almost 13 percent of Canada’s 3.7 million two-parent families are stepfamilies, like mine. Negotiating how to share the kids is never easy, but this is a time of year when it can be hardest to let go. “Christmas is a tough time because there is a lot of tradition and ritual around how the holidays are managed,” says Deborah Moskovitch, author of The Smart Divorce, a book she was inspired to write after her own acrimonious split. “But you have to share it. That’s how you have to look at effective co-parenting.”

Here’s how to ensure your festive season is filled with merriment – not resentment – this year. 

Make a plan

If you haven’t set a holiday schedule by the time you read this, do it now. “You don’t want the kids to have any angst about what they’re going to be doing at Christmas,” says Moskovitch, who also founded a divorce coaching service. Sit down with your ex and bring a calendar (and, if necessary, a neutral third party, like a professional mediator or trusted mutual friend) to figure out exactly how you’re going to divvy up the holiday break, right down to whether the kids are being picked up or dropped off, at what time, and the things they’ll need to pack. “It can be fluid and change, but it gets rid of any miscommunication,” says Moskovitch.

Trevor Pereira and his ex-wife made their Christmas schedule part of the separation agreement they drew up seven years ago. In even years, he has their two kids for Christmas Eve and morning, then hands them off at noon. In odd years, he picks them up from their mom’s house, still in their pyjamas, and takes them home for brunch and more presents. (To help avoid the aforementioned Pokémon scenario, Pereira and his ex go over the kids’ wish lists together each year to decide who’s going to buy what and how much they’ll spend.) “It’s sad either way,” admits Pereira, an IT specialist from Brantford, Ont. “Either you don’t have them in the morning or you don’t have them in the evening. But at least we both still see them on Christmas Day.”

Luckily for Pereira and his ex, they live in the same town. For co-parents who live in different cities, or even different provinces, it’s not so simple. If you have to kiss your kids goodbye for the entire holiday, says Moskovitch, “make sure you can call and talk to them. They’ll want to know you’re OK.”

To read the whole article click here

How did you blend your family…..please share your new traditions, routines and ideas.

Wishing you all the best for the holiday season!


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Divorcing Santa – Coparenting Through the Holidays Post-Divorce

My colleague Traci Whitney, founder of  Two Happy Homes has kindly submitted this article.

Please share your thoughts….how do you celebrate the holidays?

Wishing all my readers happy holidays and all the very best……Deborah

By Traci Whitney

Divorce is tough through any time of the year, but getting through the holidays post-divorce can be particularly rough.
This a time of year when you no doubt have a lot of mixed emotions about your ex, and maybe even some holiday memories, but whether they bring fond or sour feelings, this is the time when it’s necessary best to put the children first. Even though you may feel like steering clear of your ex right now, there is a lot going on with the kids, so you may have no choice but to work through some seasonal logistics. Being an excellent co-parent through the holidays may take a little extra effort, but it will make this time of year more peaceful for the whole family, including yourself.
Here are a few tips for peaceful coparenting through the holiday season…
1. Plan the parenting schedule ahead of time. Now is the time to be talking about who gets the kids when over the holidays. Chances are, you already have these days figured out in your parenting plan. But if you don’t, then get this discussion out of the way now so that you both know what to expect when the holidays are upon us. This way you can let any other loved ones know what the schedule is, and everyone can plan accordingly. Getting the parenting schedule out of the way now allows you to enjoy the holidays later.
2. Make two lists, check them twice. If your kids make wish lists for presents – have them make two separate lists – one for each house. If there is one “master” list, then it can create stress between parents… Who saw it first? Who gets to pick out the kids top choices for gifts? Is there enough gifts on the list for two homes to split? What if you buy duplicates and the kids get upset about that?… it can get downright crazy. Have the kids make two lists, or if everyone is agreeable to one parent splitting the list between homes then that is fine too. Tell the kids ahead of time that if they get the same gift at both houses then that’s ok, sometimes just a little heads up can diffuse the situation ahead of time.
3. Communicate with your coparent about gifts for the kids. If your teen really wants to get concert tickets, and you’re considering shelling out a significant amount of money to buy them for her, then it’s best to make sure that your ex doesn’t have the same plan in mind. Keeping in touch now can make sure you avoid possible conflicts during the holidays, and we want to kids to enjoy them as much as possible.
4. Consider splitting the costs for big ticket items, but only if that item is easily shared between the two homes. Don’t agree to pitch in to buy a child a bike or a pet if it can really only stay at one house, this may lead to resentment later on between parents. A doll, electronic toy, or books can entertain kids at either house.
5. Don’t stress about spending money. There are a lot of resources out there for cutting costs over the holidays. One of my favorite places for finding new ideas is Pinterest. Check out blogs for tips on how to save money on gifts. This is an area that you have control of, in a post-divorce world that is not always easy to control, so take advantage of it and do some research and planning early. That way you can enjoy the holidays instead of dreading them!
6. Don’t put the kids in the middle. This is a special time of year for kids, and if you and your coparent are arguing about schedules or gifts, then the magic can be sucked right out of the holiday pretty quickly. Make sure to keep any discussions private so that your kids can enjoy the holidays stress-free.
7. ‘Tis the season to be jolly. This is my favorite time of year, and I’ll admit that being divorced, dealing with family schedules, blended family issues, etc., etc.,  can be quite stressful. Take some time to do the things you love around the holidays, even if that means springing for a babysitter for a few hours so you can have some time to yourself. For me, this means wrapping presents with some eggnog and watching It’s a Wonderful Life – simple, but this is something that I have made my own tradition post-divorce, just for me. I also take time to create traditions for just me and the kids, so they have the joy (and stability) of memories created year after year.

 


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All alone for the holidays?

 

The Jewish High Holidays are just days away, Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I’m sure many are counting down the shopping days until Christmas. Celebrating holidays can be a stressful time when you’re divorced – but it doesn’t need to be.

 

I’ve written about this before, but I know it is top of mind for many, so I felt I should blog about it again. If you find yourself without your children or extended family at a time when you traditionally celebrated with them, it can be a sad and lonely experience without them now.

 

Here’s a little reminder of what I have previously posted and tips to get you though.

 

Who says you have to celebrate those days the traditional route or the way you celebrated when you were married? If you find yourself alone, create new meaning for these celebrations and enjoy them on your own terms. Here are some tips to get you through these celebrations.

 

 

  • Create new traditions. If the old traditions are too painful to follow, let them go. Instead of trying to re-create the past, create your own positive future.

  • Throw your own party and invite friends or family who have nowhere to go during this time.

 

  • Make a special effort to take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Don’t try drowning your sorrows with alcohol or food.  Doing anything to excess when you are sad or worried is rarely a smart move.

  • Be good to yourself. Go for a manicure or massage, buy a great CD, catch up on your favorite hobby. Treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend or family member.

 

  • If you are feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable, speak with a trusted friend, therapist or someone in your support group.

  • Plan ahead. If it looks like you’re going to be spending the time on your own, find an interesting activity or a place to travel so you can be with other people.

 

  • Surround yourself with people, whether from your support network, your family, your church or synagogue. You may even be able to attend a special support group holiday function.

  • Contemplate how you would like your life to look like post-divorce and write down what you need to do to get there. Start doing one of those things now.

  • Stay in control by making lists of what you need to do and checking each item off as you accomplish it.

  • Use any time alone to do the things you’ve been putting off — catching up on paperwork; catching up on sleep; reading the great book that’s been sitting unopened for weeks or months; calling the friend you’ve been meaning to reconnect with.

  • If putting on a dinner or party in the family home doesn’t feel right, try doing something for others off site. For example, you could visit a retirement home and read to those whose families can’t be with them during the holidays.

  • Continue to make the holidays special for your children. Include them in developing new traditions. Ask them how they would like to celebrate.

 

  • Plan ahead how your children are going to spend the holidays. Avoid the stress of figuring things out last minute. This will give you a sense of comfort, relief and control.

  • Be creative and flexible. If your children are not celebrating the holidays with you, think about making another day during holiday time a special day together.

  • If your children are going to be with their other parent, phone them and wish them a happy holiday. Let them know that you are thinking about them.

  • Don’t make your children feel that they have to take care of you during this special time. Send them the message that the holidays are a special time and you want them to enjoy themselves.

  • Spare the occasional good thought for your ex.  Your marriage likely had some good moments. Remembering those times occasionally will help you lift yourself out of your bitterness about your current situation.

 

Wishing everyone good health, happiness and prosperity; peace and love.


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Making it through celebrations

Making it Through Celebrations

Happy, and On Your Own Terms

One of the most harrowing twists and turns of the emotional roller coaster ride called separation and divorce is the first year of celebrating the holidays uncoupled. In fact, there is so much uncertainty and fear over this time that some would rather skip it altogether.

We often put ourselves under incredible pressure to celebrate holidays the traditional route and often times, it just isn’t possible. To cap it off, we don’t necessarily want to go that route, but feel societal pressure to fit in. Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, Passover, Valentines Day, our birthday, and the various other special days, can wreak havoc with our emotions especially if we find ourselves alone. While some of these holidays have religious significance others seem to be just a reason for a Hallmark card, yet we feel anxious to partake and be like everyone else.

Who says you have to celebrate those days the traditional route or the way you celebrated when you were married? If you find yourself alone, create new meaning for these celebrations and enjoy them on your own terms. Here are some tips to get you through these celebrations.

Here are tips to help you get through the holidays if you find yourself in this situation.

  • Create new traditions. If the old traditions are too painful to follow, let them go. Instead of trying to re-create the past, create your own positive future.
  • Throw your own party and invite friends or family who have nowhere to go during this time.
  • Make a special effort to take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Don’t try drowning your sorrows with alcohol or food. Doing anything to excess when you are sad or worried is rarely a smart move.
  • Be good to yourself. Go for a manicure or massage, buy a great CD, catch up on your favorite hobby. Treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend or family member.
  • If you are feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable, speak with a trusted friend, therapist or someone in your support group.
  • Plan ahead. If it looks like you’re going to be spending the time on your own, find an interesting activity or a place to travel so you can be with other people.
  • Surround yourself with people, whether from your support network, your family, your church or synagogue. You may even be able to attend a special support group holiday function.
  • Contemplate how you would like your life to look like post-divorce and write down what you need to do to get there. Start doing one of those things now.
  • Stay in control by making lists of what you need to do and checking each item off as you accomplish it.
  • Use any time alone to do the things you’ve been putting off — catching up on paperwork; catching up on sleep; reading the great book that’s been sitting unopened for weeks or months; calling the friend you’ve been meaning to reconnect with.
  • If putting on a dinner or party in the family home doesn’t feel right, try doing something for others off site. For example, you could visit a retirement home and read to those whose families can’t be with them during the holidays.
  • Continue to make the holidays special for your children. Include them in developing new traditions. Ask them how they would like to celebrate.
  • Plan ahead how your children are going to spend the holidays. Avoid the stress of figuring things out last minute. This will give you a sense of comfort, relief and control.
  • Be creative and flexible. If your children are not celebrating the holidays with you, think about making another day during holiday time a special day together.
  • If your children are going to be with their other parent, phone them and wish them a happy holiday. Let them know that you are thinking about them.
  • Don’t make your children feel that they have to take care of you during this special time. Send them the message that the holidays are a special time and you want them to enjoy themselves.
  • Spare the occasional good thought for your ex. Your marriage likely had some good moments. Remembering those times occasionally will help you lift yourself out of your bitterness about your current situation.