Martha, Martha, Martha …. Separated and Blended Families at Holiday Time – Top 5 Tips
Holidays are about family time, which can come with its own special challenges. But for many blended Canadian families, or those with newly-separated or divorced parents, those challenges can be even greater.
Here are the top 5 tips for making the holiday season as smooth as possible:
1) Stick to the schedule.
Naturally the holiday season brings out the desire to maximize togetherness and carry on with family traditions. But If custody or access during the holidays has been determined by agreement or by court order, then it’s important to stick to it. There is no need to mar the holidays by sparking arguments or needless acrimony over how and with whom the children spend their time.
2) Keep up the communication.
Once the already-busy holiday season is in full swing, it’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle. Good communication between parents and step-parents is nonetheless essential if children are to be transitioned smoothly from one parent’s home to the other. Particularly where there are important family events, visits and trips to be accommodated, it’s vital for parents to keep in contact to make sure there are no mix-ups.
3) Be flexible.
Blended families are made up of many different people whose interests may have to be considered: these include parents, step-parents, children, and often several sets of grandparents. Newly-separated and divorced parents may still be getting used to having limitations on their access and parenting rights. In addition to numerous (and sometimes conflicting) individual expectations, there may also be traditions that family members will insist upon upholding. Flexibility is key. It may be necessary to spread out the visits and gift-exchanges and traditional dinners over a week rather than cram them into a few days. What better way to optimize the goodwill, good cheer and love that abounds between family members and friends?
4) Acknowledge your child’s wishes and feelings.
Although negotiated custody and access agreements or court orders may preclude more concrete changes to scheduling, it is important to recognize that children may have their own wishes and feelings around what happens and who they spend time with during the holiday season. Wherever possible, try to take these into account when making your plans.
5) Create new traditions if possible.
If your family configuration has changed – either due to separation or divorce or because you and your children are now part of a blended family – it’s important to at least consider changing your family traditions, too. Not only is it often too difficult to maintain old traditions with so many competing demands on your children’s time, it is also a good way to signal positive change while still fostering existing bonds.
At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at www.RussellAlexander.com.