The most wonderful-est time of the year is finally here! For most families, this means planning the dinner menu, deciding on which family member is going to host the holiday dinner, or finalizing travel and sleeping arrangements.
For those who are recently divorced, separated, or you or your partner decided to call it quits, you are deciding (or arguing) about who the child gets to spend the holidays with. Hopefully you can reach a peaceable decision at the end of this post.
When a husband/wife; boyfriend/girlfriend decides to end their relationship, the first holiday can be difficult for both parties. You have just lost the person you thought was the love of your life. Depression and anxiety may be settling in as you go through the motions of the failed relationship and discovering your new normal.
And if your ex has moved on to someone new, it can be even harder. Especially when that someone new has children of their own. Although the break up may hurt, there is a hidden gift that is available when you are ready to receive it. Its called, the gift of blended families.
Blended families consist of a couple and a mixture of children from previous relationships. According to the Stepfamily Foundation Inc, over 50% of U.S. families are remarried or re-coupled and 50% of all women (not just mothers) are likely to live in a stepfamily relationship sometime in their life. Research also indicates that only 45% of children “do well” after a divorce or separation of their parents.
The Benefits of Blended Families
- Blended families provide an even bigger village filled with love, support, encouragement, and mentorship.
- There are more people available to help your child become a successful individual.
- Having more positive role models in your child life will reduce their chances of getting into trouble or hanging with the wrong crowd.
- Your child has a bigger support system to release emotions and fears through.
- The gift of blended families includes additional grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, which in return could mean more birthday gifts, new friends, increased vacations, or more free time for the other parent.
How to Mentally Prepare Yourself for Sharing the Kids this Holiday Season
Acknowledge how this makes you feel
If this scares you, say that it scares you and then identify why are you scared. For most moms, it’s the fear of your child creating new memories without you. After all, you’ve been there since the day they were born. You’ve shared every holiday with them since the beginning. Now you run the risk of having to miss out on traditional holiday memories, as well as sharing them with a new mother figure you may not be very fond of.
If the relationship ended in infidelity, feelings of rage and anger towards both parties may still be present. Allow yourself to be completely vulnerable or angry on paper. After you have let it all out, re-read what you wrote and identify the role you played in the relationship coming to an end. This doesn’t mean you are at fault for the relationship ending. It simply means you acknowledged the part you played as to why the relationship did not last. Maybe it was a sign that you noticed 10 years ago and instead of addressing it or ending it at that time, you continued in the relationship; choosing to ignore that something wasn’t right. Whatever it is, own it, heal from it, then grow from it.
If your child is spending the holidays with your ex, do not isolate yourself
Isolation can lead to depression, unhealthy feelings of abandonment, and feeling sorry for yourself. Consider linking up with a friend or your immediate family and having a holiday dinner. Besides, when was the last time you enjoyed a meal without having to bargain with a toddler about eating their vegetables?
Imagine the freedom of being able to leave home without the excessive luggage of a diaper bag, toddler bag, and a wardrobe of changing clothes. You can even wear earrings and jewelry without your little one ripping them off you! Visualize the luxury of not having to argue with a teenager about snapchatting during the family prayer, or Instagramming the dinner rolls that you accidentally burned. The good life right?
Set a realist holiday goal for yourself
For 5, 10, 20 years, you have created a holiday routine for your family. You slave away all day in the kitchen preparing this elaborate meal for your family, the children are playing in the background, and dad gets the pleasure of carving the turkey. On Christmas Eve you bake cookies with your child while dad is napping on the couch so that he can pretend to be Santa at 1 a.m.
The same way you “planned” for these events to happen, you can “plan” a new tradition! You don’t have to create something totally new. Take away those rituals that you still want to enjoy and add new rituals. Besides, maybe the new Santa is ready to switch it up to oatmeal raisin instead of the same predictable chocolate chip cookies he’s been used to.
Avoid being petty
Accept the fact that your relationship ended. Bad choices do not mean your ex is a bad person. Do not involve the children in the middle of your relationship indifferences. If certain topics need to be addressed, arrange a time after the holidays to have a health discussion with your former partner.
Imagine the pressure your ex’s new significant other must be experiencing. She’s wondering, will the children like her? What traditions does your child have that he or she might want to practice here to feel more at home? Will everyone get along? How does she settle disagreements among the children? What gifts to buy? The list could go on and on.
One thing is for sure … that is not your problem. The new significant other will be the one making deals with a child about eating their vegetables, or running the risk of having her jewelry snatched out of her ear, or debating with a teenager about using their phone at the dinner table. It will be her burnt rolls that will be all over Instagram, not yours. This is not a plan to revolt against her, just an imaginative way to help you better understand the size of the shoe she may have to fill. Extend the olive branch and allow the holidays to blend in peace.
If the divorce or the break up is still very fresh and blending families are too soon, then do not agree to anything that you will regret later
Going with the flow or agreeing to something you are not emotionally ready for can leave you feeling guilty, overwhelmed, and bitter. If your former partner needs an explanation about a decision you made, respond maturely and calmly.
Before any decision is made, it is important that both parents explain to the child that their holiday traditions maybe altering. Make sure that you both are in a healthy, emotional state, so that you do not place blame on the other parent as to why things are changing. Share with your child the benefits of having of having a blended family so that they can prepare for their new family members.
Are you recently divorced or ended a long-term relationship with your parenting partner? What are some of the ways that you cope with sharing the children on the holidays? Are you still trying to get to this point?