Much as we love to paint a nutmeg-scented picture of Christmas, it can also be a lonely or difficult period – as you’ll know if you’ve tried to smooth the path between two parental homes.
Here’s how to keep the season festive for your kids.
Find your fit
Many families opt to alternate Christmases but, observes Johannesburg coach Susan Gregor-Harlan, this might not be ideal – either for you or your kids. Experiment until you find the best way for your family to spend the season. For example, you might prefer to celebrate Christmas Eve while your ex hosts Christmas lunch.
Make it fun
Kids want to be where the fun is – plain and simple. If Christmas at yours is an all-out explosion of red and green while dad doesn’t even have a Christmas tree, it’s natural for them to feel that they’re missing out when they’re at his house. Obviously, people’s sense of occasion varies, but at least make sure that Santa Claus has paid a visit to both homes.
Keep your chin up
This is the most difficult part, but it’s also the most important. “Children take their cue from us,” Susan says – so, if your child can see that you really wish they weren’t leaving you to spend time with your ex, they’ll inevitably pick up on the vibe. On the other hand, if you’re enthusiastic about their Christmas, they’ll share that excitement. It’s vital that your kids know they have a safe space where they can talk about absolutely everything (even the fact that they’d prefer to spend Christmas with you). That begins with keeping an open mind to anything they have to tell you about the holiday at their other home. Ask questions, show them that you’re happy they’re having a great time, and let them know that whatever they feel is ok.
Think of yourself
Of course, a divided household may be difficult for your kids, but it’s not easy for you, either. Susan says that surrounding yourself with people (especially people who are sensitive to your situation) is a must. Use the time to fill your tank, doing the things you don’t usually have time for.
More about the expert:
Susan Gregor-Harlan is a parenting and family coach based in Randburg. Read more about Susan here.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.