The Gift of Togetherness: Happy Holidays after Divorce
If, like Gore and Blackstone-Ford, you’re willing to embrace unusual solutions over the holidays to provide togetherness for your children, you should think hard about how much time you can realistically spend with your ex, says Brette Sember, a former family law attorney and author of How to Parent with Your Ex: Working Together for Your Child’s Best Interest. “If you’re comfortable enough to spend a few hours together, you could plan an outing and then dinner together,” Sember suggests. “Some couples are comfortable traveling and spending the weekend together.”
However, parents should be clear to their children that they’re not getting back together, notes Sophy. Kids often want their parents to reconcile and you don’t want to create false expectations. “Communicate to the children that you’re doing this because you love them, but are not getting back together,” he says.
Brief Encounters (of the Divorced Kind)
Divorced parents who prefer brief encounters with their ex-spouses have a number of options, says Sember. They might decide to choose neutral territory, rather than “Mom’s house” or “Dad’s house.” In this case, they could visit Santa, go ice skating, check out a festival of lights, or attend a holiday play or concert together. At home, they could work side-by-side on a Christmas or Hanukah craft.
Sember notes that some divorced couples find that including a mutual friend or relative in the activity can diffuse tension by ensuring the couple’s time together isn’t as intense.
Giving the Gift of Peace
If divorced parents can’t weather even short periods of time together without fighting, they ought to focus on “parallel parenting,” which means parenting their children in their separate households, sometimes with the help of a neutral third party, says Dr. Peter Favaro, a child and adolescent psychologist and custody evaluator in New York City.
These parents can give the gift of peace by committing to not fighting. Rather than spending time with an ex, a divorced mom or dad can buy presents for his or her ex-spouse, along with the children, suggests Billingham. The mom or dad doesn’t have to be present when the kids give the gifts.
When ex-spouses commit to being civil with one another in this manner, they’re giving their children the most important gift of all, says Dr. Joyce Morley-Ball, a psychotherapist in Atlanta, Georgia. “Whether the parents and children are together physically is not so important as the emotional connectedness,” reports Dr. Morley-Ball. “It’s great if the kids can see that there is a relationship that exists between the two parents and there’s respect.”
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