Divorce Tool Box Divorce Coaches Offer Tips for Divorce and Custody During the Holiday Season
Children experience much anticipation during the holiday season, but when parents are divorcing, children may find their holidays also filled with anxiety. Child custody arrangements often change visitation plans between households to “equally divide parental time.” ABC News on May 13, 2011, reported that divorce affects 2.8 million adults, and the Coalition for Divorce Reform reports that divorce affects over one million children each year. Christmas to children of divorce can mean traveling to and from each parent’s home —even during the same day to eagerly enjoy a Merry Christmas. Divorce Tool Box endeavors to assist divorcing families through some difficult holiday challenges.
divorce inevitably results in adjustment and changes for both adults and children, but especially during the holidays, divorce creates additional stress that can take the Merry out of Christmas. But it doesn’t have to be that way for divorcing couples who prepare in advance a customized parenting plan which ensures that all facets of holiday visitation have been considered and established. Audrey Silcox, a Certified Divorce and Family Mediator, recently founded Divorce Tool Box, a division of Sildrey Corporation, because after 16 years of working with divorcing couples, including as a court-appointed mediator, she saw first-hand how essential these customized parenting plans can be for a family’s future well-being. She decided to make her expertise available to individuals or couples before they enter the legal arena via telephone divorce coaching sessions anytime, anywhere.
Says Silcox, “I recall many cases over the years where parents of divorce were filing orders of contempt during the holiday season due to misunderstandings that could have been avoided if each parent had earlier communicated and established plans for the children’s well-being. Imagine the tension, stress, and anxiety that arguing or filing court orders brings to children during what is supposed be a season of joy. I’ve learned it’s possible to double that joy instead of diminishing it. This is truly one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children who are spending parts of their holidays in two households.”
Silcox explains that this gift can be accomplished in a variety of ways and she offers five tips to assist parents.
1. Plan Christmas vacation plans and holiday events well in advance to enhance the transition between households. Concrete details of when and where will enable parents and their children to be specifically aware of what to expect during the changing family environment. Greatly reducing, if not eliminating, uncertainties will lessen the physical and emotional stress for everyone involved.
2. Budget now for less stress in the New Year. Emotions are at an all-time high during divorce, and with the addition of holidays, many parents may not make wise financial decisions when it comes to gift-buying for their children. Over the past 16 years of working in the divorce field, Silcox has heard parents voice concerns over what one parent can provide that the other cannot. She states, “Don’t try keep up with the ex-spouse when playing Santa. Children love each parent, regardless of the price tags of their gifts, and should be encouraged to realize that the relationships between parents and children are worth more than anything money can buy.”
Silcox goes on to suggest that comparing Christmas wish lists between households whenever possible can help make children’s wishes come true—within financial realities. “Make a list,” she says, “check it twice, and so you don’t have a Christmas ‘spending hangover’ in the New Year, stick to that list and stay within your budget.”
3. Keep family traditions alive to maintain unity and security. “Oftentimes, a parent may feel insecure about incorporating past family experiences into the ‘new family,’” explains Silcox, “but allowing the family’s previous traditions to continue is important so that the children realize that past family experiences will never be forgotten. Memories shared when parents were married do not have to be—nor should they be--buried after the divorce decree is signed. These memories not only provide continuity to children, they also can be cherished forever and perhaps become a part of traditions that will endure when these children eventually have children of their own.”
4. Create new traditions to incorporate the family changes. Silcox says, “Remembering old traditions is important, but it’s also healthy to create new memories with each parent as children begin incorporating the idea of divided households. Spending time with children by finding new and exciting ways to celebrate the holidays is great—both innovative and fun.” She adds, “This may signify that family life is now different but that our post-divorce family can create new ways of having fun while still remembering the past.” She suggests new traditions can be as simple as activities like making ornaments together; planning and hosting a special Christmas party with family and friends; or anything that will incorporate family togetherness to create cherished memories for the future.
5. Parents should also take time to nurture themselves as the busy season approaches. Silcox reminds parents that “While planning for your children during the holiday season is essential, planning for yourself is just as important. This may include getting a massage, or sharing a shopping trip or nice dinner out with friends. Finding a healthy balance between the past, present and future is an opportunity to experience greater joy during the holidays.”