Whether it be because of divorce, children being born outside of marriage, or other non-traditional family structures, we have many clients with children whose parents and/or guardians are living in more than one home. This can be difficult for kids and families on typical days, but is especially difficult on holidays and other special occasions. Here we provide a few ideas for how to make the holidays a little better (and less stressful) for kids living in two-home families.
Find another way to celebrate. If you don’t have your children for residential time on a holiday, find another way to celebrate the holiday. Sometimes that means cooking a Thanksgiving turkey on the Sunday preceding or following Thanksgiving Thursday. Sometimes it means, watching a (age appropriate) Halloween movie with your little one instead of getting to trick-or-treat with them. This can make your kids (that might otherwise feel like they lose out on having both [or all] their parents and/or guardians with them on holidays) feel like they are actually lucky to get a bonus tradition out of an otherwise one-day holiday.
Consider celebrating together. In some families having both parents participate in a holiday or special occasion at the same time is possible. Many families we know still celebrate some holidays and special occasions together. The non-residential parent may be invited over for the child’s birthday party with their friends and/or both parents might attend annual Easter egg hunts with the kids. This only works for certain types of two-home families, and it should not be expected. Unless this is specifically required by a parenting plan, it is usually up to the residential parent to decide whether to invite the other party to attend such events. It is absolutely not a good idea in families with domestic violence issues. Similarly, in families where the parents have not shown the ability to be civil towards one another in the presence of the children, joint celebrations are not a good idea.
Let them be excited. If you can’t be there, and can’t think of another way to celebrate with your kids, simply encouraging and allowing them to be excited might be enough. Kids will be excited for holidays and special events, but they will quickly learn to hide their excitement if it is consistently (or even intermittently) met with your disapproval, disappointment, and sadness due to not being able to be with them on the holiday or special occasion. Instead, let them be kids and be excited. Wish them well, tell them you hope they have a great meal, get lots of candy, or get the special gift they want. Put their feelings first, you can deal with yours on your own time.
While it might be hard to put your hard feelings for the child’s other parent aside, you might just find (as so many of our current and past clients have) that you also benefit from the feigned forgiveness and kindness you show the other parent while in your child’s presence. No one feels good fighting with their child’s other parent when their kids are around.
If you have questions about how to handle holidays and special occasions in your two-home (or soon-to-be two-home family), and want to speak with a Seattle family law attorney, please contact us.