Whether you’re celebrating the 4th of July or New Years, festivities are a little less festive without the family around. Divorce does a number on traditions. Living life to the fullest after divorce means creating new ones. Get creative, and you will still feel like you’re celebrating together on the holiday, even if the date falls during mom’s parenting time.
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Follow these four tips to stay connected for the holidays when you and your child are apart:
1) Send along a scrapbook.
We’re not talking the mongo 17-by-24-inch albums grandma used to make, but a small, inconspicuous photo album you can fill with a few mementos of past holidays together. It’s important to let mom have her holiday with the kids unencumbered. You’ll appreciate having the same on your holidays, but small reminders help the kids deal when they’re missing dad. Just don’t fight about it. If your ex is against sending a whole booklet, choose one picture and ask that they be able to keep it. Better yet, ask mom to take plenty of pictures for her own booklet next year.
2) Facetime for a few minutes.
Holidays are nostalgic for people of all ages, especially those whose family structures are changing. Even Groundhog Day can bring up a surprising rush of sadness you aren’t expecting. The same is true for your kids, so be sure to be available over video or messaging service if they’d like to reach out. And if the holiday is providing you with a much-needed parenting break? No guilt. Schedule a call before celebrations begin, so you can still connect without interrupting mom’s activities — or your own!
3) Start planning for next year.
Dads who alternate holidays with their exes can help their kids, and themselves, deal with the stress of being apart by planning for next year’s celebration. One method is to ask what they’re enjoying at mom’s house and add those elements to your own celebration without building upon them. For instance, if she takes the kids to a petting zoo, do not go about trying to rent a pony for your place. Parents do this in an attempt to give their kids even more of something they’ve liked, but it often hurts feelings between parents and puts your children in a space where they’re too afraid of playing favorites to enjoy anything. Finding similar experiences near your home helps create traditions the kids can share with both of you. Alternatively, you can plan new traditions that are uniquely you.
4) Journal your heart out.
Whatever leads to a divorce can leave parents on bad terms. No matter how hard you try to be kind, your ex might take things the wrong way. She might use the kids to intentionally hurt your feelings. It’s too easy to respond in the same way, and then everyone loses. Whenever you’re feeling upset, journal to help you deal with your emotions in healthy ways. You can respond to an insult — and then toss it away. (Or rip it up, throw darts at it or strap it to a bottle rocket!) Besides, the loving entries you write for your children while you’re missing them are sweet gifts you can share with them later.
While you may not be able to spend every holiday with your child or children, getting creative, and planning ahead, can help you stay closer to your kids when distance separates you on a holiday.