Resolving your holiday visitation and custody schedule is yet another element of separation and divorce that needs to be settled, and survived. In a recent article, we explained how holiday visitation is resolved in Michigan. The holiday custody schedule might end up being very different from what you were expecting. How can you cope when you have limited time with your kids? Consider these six tips for surviving the holiday custody schedule that just may – with a little effort – make your holidays a little less challenging.
1. First, choose to be the best role model for your kids … and everyone else, too.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and for those around you is to choose to be kind and positive during the holiday season (and beyond). Not only will it actually lift your spirit to be in a positive state of mind, but it will help others with their own attitudes and behaviors. It may not be easy in some cases, especially when working with or around a difficult ex, but it will help. Your kids will benefit from your positive attitude.
2. Then, choose to enjoy your time with them.
You can allow yourself to fidget and fester over all the things your former spouse didn’t do or isn’t doing or hasn’t said or did say, but that will only eat into the greatest gift you have this season: time with your kids. Make the choice to enjoy every moment as you revisit old traditions in a new way, and make new ones yourselves.
3. Take a minute (several times) to check in with your children when they are with you.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the hustle, bustle and chaos of holiday and family fun. Sometimes, kids are able to adjust to their situation of having only one parent at an event that used to have both. Other times, kids might be freaking out because the change is too much to adjust to at such a busy time of year. When your kids are with you, check in with them. Are they being their usual silly selves, or are they retreating to a back room to be alone? Observe and adjust if needed. After all, as challenging as it is for you to be newly on your own, it’s even more so for them as they adjust only being with one parent at a time. Give them the opportunity to chime in about how you should spend your time together. Their responses will speak volumes about their emotional state.
4. Make plans for your down time.
Thought of being without the kids giving you the blues? It can. Make some plans to fill in some of that down time when your kids are spending time with their other parent. This might mean you finally take your friends up on that movie night, visit with some relatives you never get to see, volunteer at a soup kitchen or at the pet shelter, or just relax with a the latest best seller. For some people, it’s easier to face the holidays knowing that they have a full calendar to fill the void.
5. Don’t make it a competition.
This is an especially good piece of advice from therapist Jean McBride. There’s a lot going on during the holidays, and it is easy to get caught up in the game of one-upmanship. Don’t feel like you have to spend more than your former spouse on gifts, more extravagant outings or expensive events. These things cost money and your new budget may not be able to stretch that far without lingering effects. Your visitation schedule gives you limited time, so packing your schedule make the kids tired and cranky, and possibly you, too. Spending time with your kids is a wonderful thing. It isn’t about seeing who can do it bigger and better. You do it your way, keeping in mind that your kids want your time and attention more than anything else. Focus on the time you have together more than anything else, build your relationship, and stick to it!
6. You can’t change your ex.
Whatever he or she is going to do, say, or be like has to roll off your back. At least for now. For the sake of your kids, be gracious and kind (recall #1 above). Your visitation time is precious, so embrace it and build that relationship! If your ex’s name comes up, quell the urge to say something negative or behave in a way that ruins the spirit of the season for your kids. In fact, you surely don’t want to ruin your children’s holiday (or any day) by bad-mouthing their other parent. Whatever he/she says or does is beyond your control. You, however, move forward with grace and poise and leave any complaints for your best friend’s ears.
You CAN Survive the Holiday Visitation Schedule
Remember that the holidays are important to all of you. You deserve to have happiness and joy in your life, but your kids deserve that, too. A conscious effort to be a positive presence for them during a time of change will give them stability and strength, and for you it’s a case of mind over matter. This is just the first of many wonderful experiences you and your kids will have together in your new family structure, so make the most of every minute of it.
About Findling Law
I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades. The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles. We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.
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By: Daniel Findling