Decorations, pictures with Santa, family outings, shopping and just being around family can bring either good feelings or a ton of stress.
Add parenting with an ex to the mix and you've got yourself one heck of a holiday season!
If you are in a parenting with an ex situation, then you probably know the ins and outs of holiday custody.
Holiday custody can be stressful for all involved, especially the children. It can be tough transitioning between two different homes. One of your struggles may be finding ways to welcome the child back home after spending holiday time with the non-custodial parent.
Regardless of which holiday you are welcoming your child back home from, be sure to ease into it. This will allow the child to adjust back to the everyday routines that were in place before they left. After all, what kid wouldn't love being on a holiday break. Breaks usually mean staying up later than usual, possibly staying up later than usual, eating dinner at different times, eating more fun foods or being showered with attention from family members they don't get to see that often. We definitely want our kids to remember those moments but we also know that we have to get back to household routines (chores, homework, study time, extracurricular activities). It's not that we want to ruin the fun, it's just that kids need structure in order to grow.
When welcoming your child back home, be mindful that this is an emotional time for them. Be available if and when your child wants to talk. Yes, this includes them talking about what a great time they had with their dad and his family. Move past your feelings and let the child talk! Would you feel better if your child told you what a horrible time they had? Hopefully not! But if time spent with their dad was, in fact, horrible then be available to listen. Don't add fuel to that fire by speaking ill words towards the child's father. The objective in listening to your child talk about their time with their dad is to allow them to express themselves. They want to share their happiness with you.
Regardless if your child's visit was great or horrible, don't think that you now have to make their time with you even greater or over compensate for their horrible visit. The holidays will do that to you, don't fall for it!
No, you don't have to go buy those expensive sneakers or those headphones or that doll or those video games. Parenting with an ex is not a competition. Your child's emotions are not something that should be soothed with gifts.
Speaking of emotions...
This may be an emotional time for you as well. It's pretty hard to listen to your child rattle off about how great their dad is or how their step mom is so awesome. This isn't a knock against you, your child is simply expressing innocent feelings. Trust me, I know. I've had to deal with the name my daughter chose to call her step mom!
Be confident of who you are in your child's life. Practicing self-care is key because you have to be good for you before you can be good to those you interact with, which includes your child, family, friends and your ex.
So, before your child arrives back home, take a few minutes to get your thoughts together. The holidays are stressful enough, you don't need the added stress of struggling to welcome your child home. Find some quick fixes to calm your nerves (this does not include alcohol!). Quick stress fixes include:
- deep breathing
- listening to music
- journaling (works great because your write out your frustrations instead of saying them to your ex)
Once you've got your nerves in check, try these ideas to ease your child back from holiday visitation:
If it's after Thanksgiving
- have a special dinner
- tell your child how grateful you are for them
- decorate the house for Christmas together, play Christmas music, drink hot chocolate
- have a Christmas cookie decorating party
- buy and wrap presents together
If it's after Christmas
- take down the Christmas decorations together
- play board games after the clean up
- volunteer together
If it's after New Year's Day
- Have a belated New Year's Eve party, complete with your child's favorite foods
- Have a movie marathon of each family member's favorite movie, add some popcorn
I've tried many of the ideas above with my daughter and, at times, it was hard but it got easier. No matter how I felt, once we starting decorating for Christmas or watching a movie, all of the tension would go away. I've had a few years of practice with this and being consistent has been key. Keep at it, you will get there.
What are your favorite holiday activities that you do with your kids?