Growing up in New York, I couldn’t wait for the holiday season. The city draped in lights; Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree towering, more beautiful and glistening then any skyscraper; the Macy’s window – a whole Dickens village in miniature. It seemed the whole city was a gilded gift I’d wander through with my parents.
At home, my grandmother threw her famous Hanukah parties, complete with unsurpassed potato pancakes. “Call me grandma,” she’d say to all my friends, even those she barely knew.
When I think of those holiday days, the word magical comes to mind. Children should feel that sense of wonder, of beauty, of infinite goodness and possibilities during the holiday season.
When couples come to me to mediate their divorce, they try to resolve how they will co-parent post-divorce during the holiday season. In most cases, spouses are frightened at the prospect of losing time with their children, and they fight over how to divide things fairly. Their solutions are often to cut the kid down the middle – fifty/fifty. You get Christmas odd years. I get to see Sue and Jimmy even-numbered years.
In mediation, I like to reframe the issue of how to co-parent during the holidays while still giving each parent the opportunity to spend as much time as they can with their children.
Try taking your children’s point of view: How can you preserve the magic of the holiday for them – how can you keep a Santa Claus clause in your separation agreement:
- Think of the activities that are most meaningful to your children – opening presents Christmas morning? Lighting the Hanukah menorah? Are you and your spouse comfortable enough to do these activities as a family? Even spending a few hours together might make a difference to your kids.
- If you are not on civil terms with your ex and can’t do things as a family, encourage your children to talk about their experiences. If your little ones sees Santa Clause with your ex, encourage them to tell you all about it – let them know you’re happy they had an exciting day.
- Try to make sure your kids see all the people who usually fill their holidays. I can’t imagine Hanukkah without my grandmother – my mother’s mother. Every child has extended family they love and want to see. When you and your ex plan your holidays, make sure extended family are included.
I used to be very excited as a kid to get my Hanukah presents. But I can’t remember a single one; what I can remember is the taste of those potato pancakes, my grandmother greeting everyone like family; not the gifts I was given, but all the love and magic my family gave. Give that gift to your children even when you divorce.