This may be your first holiday season wearing your New Family suit, and it might not feel as comfortable as you would like, so here are some ideas to help you find the joy in the season:
- New Family. You, your children, your coparent, and extended family on both sides are now part of a New Family. Treat each other with the care and compassion that you would treat your own family members (would you be snippy or sarcastic to your favorite aunt or beloved sibling?). Try to remember to approach all of your interactions while silently saying the words Compassion, Gratitude, and Harmony. It will help you focus on what’s important.
- Kids first. If you and your co-parent (notice, we don’t use the word “ex”) are focused on what will make the holidays best for the children, you will almost certainly do the right thing. That doesn’t mean competing to see who can out-spend or one-up the other. In fact, the best way to show your love may be to discuss and agree with your co-parent on what gifts the children will receive and then present them from both of you. You can also agree to alternate favorite activities, or attend together. For example, if a “sparkle tour” is a favorite Christmas Eve activity, rent a van and take along another family. It creates a sense of adventure for the children and gives you, as co-parents, a buffer zone of other people to interact with just in case things are tense.
- New Traditions. Memories of Christmas (or Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanza, etc.) past may haunt you, but you don’t have to embrace sorrow or bitterness over the new situation. Instead, think about the very best of times and try to incorporate those traditions and rituals into a practice that your New Family can share. Invite your co-parent to attend a “New Family Meeting” where everyone can brainstorm ideas about their wishes for new traditions.
- Try not to feel weird. It might be harder than it sounds! As a New Family, things may seem awkward at first, or even painful, but if you concentrate and focus on providing beautiful memories for your kids (and for you!), you may be amazed at how quickly you and your co-parent adapt.
- Talk to a pro. Holidays are hard at the best of times, so don’t shy away from spending a few hours with your therapist or counselor to talk through your feelings before they turn you inside out. If you need a referral for a mental health professional, we work with an amazing group of therapists and counselors who we are honored to work with.
- Be easy on yourself. Changes don’t happen overnight and healing may not come as quickly as you would like. Treat yourself as if you were your own best friend — with compassion, kindness, patience, respect, and a cookie or two!
- Call us if you need us! We’re here to help you with any questions or problems you might have during the holidays, but please plan ahead, if you can.