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Sharing Your Kids for the Holidays

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The holidays are right around the corner. For those of us who are going through or have been through a divorce with kids in tow, this can be a tough time of year.

Remembering what the holidays used to be like when we were married often gives way to weak moments and mental breakdowns as we learn to share these special times with the ex.

As you move forward with your new single life it can be difficult to come to grips with the fact that your kids may not be sitting at your Thanksgiving table this year, and Christmas morning may not bring the tap on the shoulder at six a.m. with, "Santa was here." The delight and wonderment of the once magical Christmas morning may not be the same.Sharing Your Kids for the Holidays

If this is your first year without the kids it may be the most difficult, but remembering to be strong for your kids is crucial. Keep in mind this is just as difficult for them and they will be missing you too.

If your divorce is final and the ink has dried on the custody papers, you may find that this year you are alone. There are several different visitation schedules to consider when it comes to the holidays. Deciding what's best for you, your kids, and your ex can be a challenge.

  • The flip-flop. One parent spends Thanksgiving with the kids and the other keeps them for Christmas. The following year, you trade.
  • The split. The kids spend a half day with each of you. While it's nice to see your kids for the holiday it can be chaotic for them; shuttling to various relatives, two holiday dinners, or none.
  • The permanent. The kids spend every Thanksgiving with one parent and every Christmas Eve and morning with the other.

Whatever the agreement, it is important to keep in mind things may change over the years; new relationships may form, the kids will get older, or relocation could occur for you or your ex. keeping the peace over the holidays may become more of a challenge.

To help you make equitable decisions keep these five tips in mind:

  1. Plan ahead. If you don't have a holiday visitation schedule in place by order of the court or agreement, don't wait until the last minute to devise one. By waiting, you run the risk of heated arguments and debates as activities are planned and the tug of war begins.
  2. Mediation.  Seek an outside, objective party to help you and your ex come up with an equitable schedule. Family members and friends are usually not a great resource, for obvious reasons.
  3. Consider a child psychologist. Your kids may or may not be seeing a psychologist after your divorce. If they are, consider consulting your child's doctor with a holiday schedule that works for them. No psychologist? Consider seeking the advice of one when devising a holiday schedule. One of the above visitation schedules may be better than another for kids of different ages.
  4. Be flexible.  You may not want to give in to your ex if they request to have the kids for Thanksgiving, but keep your kids' wants in mind. Maybe Thanksgiving dinner is the one time a year they get to hang out with all their cousins who live far away and they look forward to it every year. Don't let your desire to have them by your side impede your knowing this is important to your kids.
  5. Keep the kids out of it.  Never, ever allow your children to be caught in the crossfire. Using your child as a pawn, or a go-between for you and your ex is never a good idea. Your kids need to know that whatever schedule is decided, both of their parents love them and have their best interests in mind.

It's not always going to be easy and the holiday blues are sometimes unavoidable if your kids can't be by your side. Just remember to be strong and enjoy the moments you get to spend with them. Chances are those memories will last a lifetime!

Have you been through a divorce and had to spend the holidays without your kids? How did you decide your visitation schedule? Please share your stories with us in the comments.

Suzanne Cramer

Suzanne is a certified credit counselor working in our Ask the Expert forums as a coach and a Social Media Specialist for CareOne. Suzanne writes for our Divorce, Debt and Finances and A Straight Talk on Debt blogs.  Follow Suzanne on Twitter where she shares the latest debt industry news and tips to keep your finances in check with her ADivorcedMom and AskCareOne accounts.

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  • My wife's parents got divorced when she was very young, so we have three sets of Grandparents to visit during the holidays.  There have been some real scheduling issues and hurt feelings with respect to who gets visited on the actual holiday.  Many of your points apply to my situation as well.....I'm half tempted to print out a copy of your blog and send it to each of them.

  • I always try to tell my son's three sets of grandparents that while we want to see them all, sometimes it just isn't possible. There is nothing worse for a little one than being shuffled around to 5 different places on Christmas Day after "Santa" has come and dropped off presents they desperately want to play with!

    Best of luck with your scheduling this year and be sure to remind the grandparents to keep your kids' feelings in mind.

  • Changing your name marks a new beginning or a return to the former you; it may not only make you feel better, it may give you a much needed fresh start.

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