TIPS FOR AVOIDING CONFLICTS DURING
holiday time often becomes a stressor for people. When divorce is
involved, the stresses can be greater. To minimize stress, which
can lead to conflicts, the following are some tips about how to
approach the holiday season.
probably the most important area about which to think and work. If
our attitude is positive, it will make it easier to approach the
challenges. It’s not the challenge or problem that creates
difficulties or conflict, it’s our attitude and how we approach the
challenge that can help the situation or make it worse. One of the
best ways to handle any conflict is to look at the situation through
the eyes of each person involved, all the while staying emotionally
problems during the holidays, let’s look at what children and
parents need so that the holidays will be filled with warm, positive
What do children need?
To have parents who are calm,
pleasant, relaxed and act respectfully toward each other.
To spend time with both parents
and extended family during holiday time – not necessarily on THE
day. Any holiday can be celebrated before, during or after the
actual date. How fortunate many children of divorce feel that
they can have 2 celebrations. 2 sets of gifts, etc.
To be given “permission” to have
a good time with the other parent and extended family
To be picked up and returned on
To be allowed to take their
gifts (if gifts are involved) or at least 1-2 favorites between
To get adequate rest
To have a limited amount of
“junk” food and sweets
To not be expected to eat at
both parents’ functions if the holiday is being celebrated on
the same day and the children go between homes
To be able to see a visual
representation on a calendar of what the “plan” is for parenting
time. Put the exact same calendar on the refrigerator of both
homes. Little children can use stickers to differentiate
between mom and dad’s home on the calendar.
To have parents who briefly share the highlights of
their celebration with the other parent, so the other parent can
refer to all the fun the children had at that parent’s home
To have the celebration kept at
a low level, so that it is not overwhelming to them.
What do parents need to do for the sake of the children?
Remember that this is a season
for giving and counting blessings; that “less is more”.
Consider volunteering with your children at a soup kitchen or
hospital; or take toys to children in the hospital. We always
feel better when we give to others.
Enjoy your time away from the
children. Find something to do for yourself. Let the children
know that you have plans while they are gone, so the child does
not have to “worry” about your well being.
Give the children “permission”
to have a good time with the other parent.
Collaborate with the other
parent about the dollar amount and quantity of gifts being given
to the children. Share what you want to give, so that you agree
on separate, joint or duplicate gifts. (e.g. if you want to
give a child a bicycle, is it something that can go between
homes?Has the other parent already bought one for the child?
Etc.) Avoid competition with gift giving.
Develop all the details of the
holiday with the other parent well in advance – a month in
advance. That allows you time to problem solve if there is a
disagreement or to participate in mediation, if necessary.
Share the parenting plan with
extended family so they can develop their plans around it. Seek
the cooperation of extended family as they make their plans, so
that children do not feel a “tug of war” between families or
Arrange for some “down” time or
quiet time so children can rest or just play alone or with
Keep yourself rested (what a
task that can be !). Consider what it is like for a child to be
around a parent who is stressed out or overwhelmed because the
parent has developed a schedule that is too busy.
Feel your sadness when the
children are not around. Counseling can be very helpful.
“Listen” to the children.
Children’s behavior says a lot. Overwhelmed children can be
cranky, have difficulty sleeping, be irritable, be argumentative
or cry excessively. Speak quietly, with understanding, to your
Develop new routines. This is
an opportunity to develop new traditions for how your family is
going to celebrate a holiday. Involve the children, as it is
age appropriate, in developing these new traditions.
Understand your role and the
role of everyone in your sphere, including a new partner.
If there is a conflict, consider
“letting go” of the fight and doing what the other parent
wants. After all, it is the fighting of parents that makes
divorce so very difficult for children.
To avoid the same “ fight” next
year, work with a mediator well in advance, maybe right after
the holiday, to arrive at next year’s plan.
Above all, enjoy
your children. Laugh a lot.
Keep everything in perspective.
This is just one day out of the whole year. Think about what
memories the children will take away with them. Children tend to
remember the good times, the ambiance, the joy; not the food or the