Advice for divorced parents on how to enjoy split holiday time, from the team behind the documentary SPLIT
Last week we announced the making of SPLIT, an affecting documentary film on divorce as told from the point of view of 12 kids, ranging in age from six to twelve, by award-winning filmmaker Ellen Bruno. We divorced kids always used to brag to the marrieds how cool our two Christmases would be, how our embittered parents would out-buy each other for our affections. Ah, sweet yuletide nights!
Divorce coach and Split supporter, Christina McGhee, offers more practical tips to enjoying the holidays than buying your kids stuff.
Keep your emotions in check
This holiday season your children will be taking their cues from you. Make sure you are paying attention to your feelings and needs this holiday season. Think through where you might need a little extra support and create a plan for how you can meet those needs.
Talk about it
Be sure you talk with your children about what the holiday will look like for your family this year. While it may seem like an obvious thing to do, have a discussion about what will be different and what will stay the same. It can also helpful to discuss with kids what’s most important to them this holiday season but also what will be the hardest parts. Although you may think you know how your kids are feeling, take time to do a quick check in. Not only does it give you a chance to learn a little more, it reassures your kids that it’s okay to talk.
Don’t focus on fair
When it comes to holiday schedules and special celebrations, do your best to stay focused on how it feels for your kids. Remember what may feel fair to you or your Ex may not feel so great for your kids.
Whenever possible be flexible and let your kids’ needs guide your holiday planning.
Map it out
When the holidays hit, keeping kids informed about plans or last minute changes often get lost in the shuffle.
To keep things on track, make a color-coded holiday calendar so kids will know how and when they’re spending time with each parent. It also helps to include other significant seasonal events or special days with other important family members.
Give kids a heads up
Going back and forth between Mom’s house and Dad’s house can be a real challenge for kids. Think ahead about how you can help your kids smoothly transition to the other parent’s home. For example, instead of pulling kids away from a festive family celebration and shuffling out them door to Mom’s or Dad’s house without warning, give your kids a heads up about what the plan is before you arrive.
Keep it simple
When you’re sharing time between two households, avoid the temptation to “supersize” your holiday by overdoing or overindulging kids. Keep in mind; if you spend every single minute of your time together on the go, you’re likely to end up with fussy, overwhelmed and unhappy kids.
Give your holiday balance by creating pockets of down time with your kids. Think about sitting quietly and reading a book together, taking a walk in the park or enjoying a late morning family breakfast in your pajamas. Remember, less can be more.
Whatever you do this holiday season, don’t forget to have fun and stay flexible. While traditions are important, consider the possibility of changing things up. Instead of re-shaping the whole holiday, think about one thing you could do different that you and your kids will enjoy. Along with strengthening your relationship, breaking away from the “usual” can also create special memories for years to come.
Scheduled for release in the fall of 2013, SPLIT offers a candid and revealing look at how kids of divorce feel about family change. Reassuring children they’re not alone, Bruno’s film also offers lots of healing moments as kids from all walks of life open up about heartaches and lessons learned.
To see a clip of Bruno’s work in progress or to make a contribution to this very special project, visit their Kickstarter page.