Getting divorced or being separated at Christmas time is probably one of the worst experiences that a person can have. Being the child of parents who were getting divorced or who are separated at Christmas time can be even worse. This is especially so when parents put their own interests ahead of their child’s.

Here is some simple advice to try to keep Christmas merry and bright for you and your children and to avoid turning the holidays into the “hellidays” and leaving them with lifelong emotional trauma.

First, stop and think. Before you make any plans, before you say anything, before you do anything, stop and think about what are you doing and how this will impact your children.

Second, cooperate. Being separated or divorcing at the holidays is difficult for both parents. It will not hurt you to cooperate with the other parent no matter how much you dislike them and/or their family. Even intact nuclear families still need to cooperate to get through the holidays. Being separated or getting divorced does not excuse you of this obligation.

Third, be nice. It is Christmas time after all. Although it may not be the happiest season of your life it probably still would do you well to be nice to others.

Fourth, do not try to compete. Do not make Christmas a competition between you and the other parent to show who can buy the best gifts or to otherwise outdo the other. If you are getting divorced or are separated probably neither of you can afford to give your children the same amount to gifts that you could if you two were still together. Nevertheless, you can still give your children a wonderful Christmas filled with happy memories.
The best gifts are the love and attention that your children deserve. Even separated or divorcing parents can do this for their children. And although this may be on a schedule that splits Christmas day, as parents it is our obligation to make Christmas merry for our children.

If your estranged spouse or partner cannot follow these four simple rules, you still should. Your children will appreciate it.

Happy holidays.