• Most of us want to spend every holiday and birthday with our children. So how do you reconcile this when your children now have two households? You keep the kids for everything and your ex is out of luck?! I have a feeling your ex might have a different take on that, so it’s time to come up with some sort of happy compromise.

    Be Flexible
    Open your mind a bit and try not to be rigid. You will be amazed at how easily things can sometimes fall into place.
    There are families who have the tradition of celebrating Holidays on a different day. For example – If you have a big traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all of your family and friends, and your children, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, then everyone is available, travel is cheaper, and you will not feel as badly about letting your ex have the children on Thanksgiving Day itself. In fact that gives you a few days after your Thanksgiving to wind down, travel, and enjoy some ‘me-time’.

    Not everyone has reached this level of acceptance and Zen, I suppose, but when you reach it, if you reach it, life becomes easier and more wonderful

    Be Kind
    This is not the time to gripe or speak badly about your ex or the allocation of holidays. Keep the holiday spirit by being upbeat and positive. Help your children buy or make gifts and cards for their other parent. If s/he is re-married help your children with their gifts and cards for their step-parent and any half or step siblings they have. If you help your child to be generous and loving in their second home they will feel happier in both homes. If you don’t “grow up,” how do you expect them to? Take the high road and when you see your children happy and adapting well you will know what true peace and happiness feel like.

    Create New Traditions
    If Christmas is your most cherished holiday and the children will be with their other parent on the big day then you can play up other aspects of the holiday. Make a new tradition out of picking out the tree – choosing one together, bringing it home to decorate, maybe having friends and family over for a decorating party/potluck and opening a gift or two at midnight after an evening of family, food, friends, and fun. You can do this every year and it will take on the joy and power of a holiday in your household. It doesn’t mean that you won’t miss them on the holiday itself if they are not with you, but it takes the edge off for all of you.

    Before Easter, Christmas, or any other holiday you can have an arts and crafts or baking day with your children to prepare for the holiday. This can be a day where you stay in, work on decorations for the holiday, and possibly invite friends to join you. If there is food, music, laughter and love it will become another wonderful tradition and ritual for your children to look forward to. If they won’t be with you on the holiday itself they can take the goodies or crafts they made to the celebration they’re attending, which makes for a nice transition for them!

    Have an annual Thanksgiving picnic on the day after Thanksgiving. Go for a hike, pack a basket, and begin a new outdoor/nature tradition. If the weather is too cold for outdoor picnicking, go inside. But still have the traditional picnic and you won’t lose the sense of adventure and fun. Again, it is the energy around your new traditions that will determine how accepting your children are of them. So don’t allow yourself to lament or play the ‘what if…’ game. Be positive and your children will follow your lead.

    Sharing Birthdays
    When it comes to birthdays you have a few options. You can split the day with your ex so that the children wake up with you on their birthdays one year then go to their other parent for the evening celebration, and alternate each year. You might make it a tradition to take a day off from work or keep them out of school on their birthday, or on a day during their birthday week if you don’t have them on their actual birthday. This is a day where you would get one-on-one time with your child and celebrate with him/her. It allows your child to see both you and your ex without anyone feeling as if they missed out. If you and your ex are on friendly terms you can arrange for a birthday breakfast, lunch, dinner or outing where you are all sharing the day together. Only do this if you and your ex can truly get along because bickering on your child’s birthday is not an option.

    Inclusion Celebrations
    If you and/or your ex are involved seriously with another person/other people and you can find it in your hearts and minds to accept them, then having holiday celebrations together can be wonderful. There are families where ex-husbands and ex-wives, step-mothers, step-fathers, step-children, half-siblings, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents from all sides can come together, sit down to a meal together (at a huge table, of course) and get along. If what you are looking for is the feeling of family, spending time with your children and the happiness of your children, then nothing will accomplish this more easily. Not everyone has reached this level of acceptance and Zen, I suppose, but when you reach it, if you reach it, life becomes easier and more wonderful. And your own family members will take their cues from you. So if you accept your ex and her/his new partner into your life and into your celebrations then your family and friends will feel more at ease.

    Ideally, try to plan ahead, be calm, positive, patient, creative, flexible, and generous. Above all be kind, and you will find that your holidays and birthdays are as wonderful, if not more so, than they were before!