Organizing a Holiday Visit With the Kids

Divorce is hard enough on kids, but the holidays tend to make things even more painful.

The fact that other families are gathering to celebrate and spend time together only serves as a reminder that their family is no longer the same. That’s why this time of year, parents need to do some extra planning for visits to make sure that the time together is special, and to help relieve some of the negative stress your kids may be feeling. While there’s always a challenge to balance the short amount of time you have with a fun, casual atmosphere that is conducive to making visits something everyone looks forward to and enjoys.

Alicia on ‘Spreading Holiday Spirit Over Different Visits’

‘So much of Chanukah and Christmas are about the excitement leading up to the big celebrations. So instead of focusing on these big days, start planning for a series of fun days that can spread the holiday spirit over a few different visits. For example, plan ahead for one day to take your kids holiday shopping (or the ones that are old enough), and another day you go sledding or ice skating. Make up a list of little holiday things you’d like to share with your kids (go caroling, take a Santa picture, drink hot chocolate, see the tree at Rockefeller Plaza, etc.) and figure out a way to work those into your schedule.’

Sarah on ‘Creating New Holiday Rituals’

‘One of the ways to make the holiday season special for your kids is by thinking of a new “ritual” that you want to establish with your kids that you’ll do each year going forward to celebrate in your own, new way. Looking back to when I wass a child dealing with divorced parents during the holidays, I remember what a weird time of year it always was. What you really want is some quality time with each parent and some connection back to the safe, warm rituals you shared as a family unit. If you can’t have that – then it’s good to have some fun new rituals in their place. For example, my mom instituted a “lobster” dinner on Christmas Eve and my dad would let us have a “concert night” at his house where we’d get to go through all his old LPs and DJ. It was a way to make the holidays our own, witheach parent, while taking some of the pressure off not having a “normal” holiday like everyone else.’

While the holiday visits can be hard, here’s a few ways to make those visits a little easier.

#1: Create A Schedule With Your Kids
Holiday traditions are easy targets for eye-rolling. Just because you like to go caroling, doesn’t mean your kids want to do the same. Here’s your chance to listen to your kids about the holiday traditions that they want to do. Maybe they want to learn to snowboard. Or maybe there’s a certain holiday movie they love to watch. Get their ideas and plan fun events around them.

#2: But Don’t Plan Everything
One mistake many parents make is feeling that they need to have every minute of every visit planned. This is especially true during the holidays when your time with the kids seems like it needs to have that extra something special. In fact, ‘planning’ for some downtime may be the best way to ensure that things go smoothly. It allows for time to relax, talk about what’s going on in their lives, and express whatever feelings they may be having.

#3: Don’t Over-Give
Presents. Presents. Presents. Divorced couples are easily baited into a present war, usually by a healthy dose of guilt, mixed with some not so subtle egging on by the kids themselves. So remember to keep things normal when it comes to presents as well. Even go so far as to contacting your ex to decide a price limit. There is no winner when it comes to a gift war.