The first Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthday and Easter after a divorce are always difficult to bear, especially if you have children. Family traditions are disposed of with yesterday’s trash, and you’ll be forced to start fresh with new methods of celebration. If possible, however, it is best to include your ex-spouse in holidays and birthdays after divorce.
First, realize that shared holidays and birthdays will be a temporary situation. Once your child begins to understand the concept of divorce and a separated family, he or she will be more comfortable with simply splitting the holidays between you and your ex. Further, older children might be uncomfortable sharing holidays and birthdays after divorce because of the tension.
Decide how you feel about sharing holidays and birthdays before talking with your ex or your children about it. Some divorces – especially those which involve abuse – are too messy to even consider this option. Others are more amicable and will allow you and your spouse to interact civilly. If you really aren’t comfortable seeing your ex on holidays and birthdays, don’t even consider it as an option.
However, if you decide that you would be up to it, approach the subject with your ex. Explain that you feel it would be best for the children if you were all together for a few hours. You might even consider going in on a large present together to show your children that they still have a family, even if everyone doesn’t live together.
Once you and your ex have decided to share holidays and birthdays, talk with your children about it. Explain what you and your ex have decided and ask if they are comfortable. Make sure they know that no one will be upset with their decision, and that you are simply trying to make it easier on them. The level of explanation required will depend on the ages of your children.
Remember, however, that deciding to share the holidays and birthdays after the divorce is just the first step; once it has been decided, you will actually have to put this practice into motion. Set boundaries that must be observed during this ritual, and be careful not to cross them. Set up a time when it’s convenient for both you and your ex and decide in advance how long you will be together.
If you and your ex spend shared holidays and birthdays arguing, it will just be more difficult for your children. Instead, make every effort to be civil, and try not to let the past enter into your arrangement. You don’t even have to interact much with one another; instead, focus on your children and their needs.
If, after one holiday or birthday, you discover that it isn’t going to work, don’t worry. You can always split the day in half – first with you, then with your spouse – without hurting your children’s feelings.