The glowing lights, family gathering and festive feasts of the holidays take on a different feel when you’re a co-parent navigating the holidays. After a divorce or separation, sharing a child with someone else can be challenging at any time of year, but it’s especially so during the holidays.
Yesterday, I drove past a church sign that said “Lessons and Carols” would be this evening, and that got me thinking that Christmas carols offer a lot of co-parenting lessons. (Yes, I know that the lessons aren’t meant in that way, but work with me here.) These songs have endured, sometimes for centuries, both because they are beautiful and they contain some truths that transcend time and experience. The truths in them can help make the holidays easier on both your children and on those co-parenting them.
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the hap–happiest season of all.” — It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Focus on the season as a whole and not just a single day. That perspective shift can make a tremendous difference. The holiday season is full of magic—it is not limited to just Christmas morning or the first night of Hanukkah. Every day with your kids is a chance to make a memory. The resulting warm fuzzy feelings will last a lifetime, regardless of the date on the calendar.
“Faithful friends who are dear to us, Gather near to us once more.” — Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Friends can be key to making the most of the holidays, especially if you’re facing time alone. Sometimes you may be the one who needs to do the gathering of them. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. They’re friends, not mind readers. Letting them know where you’re at and what you’re feeling can be hugely helpful. Give your friends a chance to be there for you.
If you do get an invitation, don’t overthink it. If it sounds awful, skip it. If it sounds like it could potentially be a bit fun, go! If you’re worried about intruding, especially at the holidays, don’t. Trust your friends to mean their invitations.
One Christmas Day, when my daughter was at her father’s house, a friend’s parents invited me to join their family celebration. Despite my trepidation—What if I was sad? What if they didn’t really mean it? What if it was awkward?
I went. It was lovely. None of my what-ifs became reality, and it was far more fun than sitting at home alone.
“For I’ve grown a little leaner, grown a little colder/Grown a little sadder, grown a little older/And I need a little angel sitting on my shoulder/I need a little Christmas now.” — We Need a Little Christmas Now
If Auntie Mame taught us anything, it’s that although the years are not always kind or easy, perspective can make all the difference.
Seeing your glass of eggnog or mug of hot chocolate as half full, focusing on the positive, and doing what makes you happy can be the ticket to a better holiday. Making the most of a tough situation also sets a great example for your kids in the process.
“And wild and sweet the words repeat. Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.” — I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
I think it’s safe to say that we all want our children to grow up in a peaceful world, and that starts with us.
Showing goodwill towards an ex and former relatives can be hard. If that’s not an option, go the “Silent Night” route and follow the “if you can’t saying anything nice, don’t say anything at all” rule.
But if you can dig deep and find a way to show kindness to people who aren’t your favorites but who are your children’s relatives, that is a gift not to them but rather to your child.
Even if they don’t deserve it, just as in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it is possible that doing so will lead to hearts growing three sizes. Showing your children that you can both have boundaries and show goodwill to people is powerful. And bringing a little peace to your children is a true and lasting gift.
This post contains affiliate links.