Some say it’s the most wonderful time of the year.  For families and children of divorce, it can be the most difficult, frustrating, and painful time of the year.    Around the holidays many look forward to family, fun, friends, love, and that goes right along with it.   When divorce and child custody issues are still smoldering, and even sometimes when they’re not – families and friendships are fractured, the love is not quite there, and the stressors increase significantly.  The longing for an intact family, particularly for children, can put a serious damper on the festivities.

All too often, the holidays tend to rekindle a war between divorced parents, particularly where child custody is concerned. It’s important to have a very specific court order or parenting agreement in advance of such special occasions.  While that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a trouble-free holiday period, the boundaries established by a clearly worded child custody order in the aftermath of a divorce can keep the problems away.

If you’re going to communicate in writing, e-mail is a perfect place to do it.  However, when your ex-wife or ex-husband is one of the high-conflict variety, it is very important that you follow the rules of low-contact.  The other benefit to email is that it becomes a record of what you’ve agreed to.  Any problems that arise in the aftermath of such a child custody agreement may prove helpful if further litigation becomes necessary.

If you can co-parent effectively, do it!  In situations where the acrimony has long since faded away and parents who divorce get along well and co-parenting is working, you can do things that are simply impossible in a high-conflict divorce situation.  You can collaborate on gift-giving.  Scheduling parenting time over the holidays can been done informally and in a relaxed atmosphere.  The children have gotten used to what to expect from the holidays and the child custody schedule.  There is no game of one-upsmanship over who can buy the better gifts and how many.

The bottom line in all of this is to remember to focus on the children’s well-being, particularly around the holiday season.  The divorce has left their feelings about family, love, and relationships compromised.  The better that you can make it for them, the happier the holidays can be for everyone.  Give them a reason to believe that things can heal and people can move on for the betterment of all, regardless of what time of year it is.  If you’re ex-partner remains high-conflict despite the problems it can cause for everyone, you can still maintain your own personal integrity and not “stoop to their level.”   Many times, it only takes the efforts of one wise parent, who wishes to focus on the children and make the holidays a special time despite all of the background  “noise” – to improve the experience for everyone.

Divorce doesn’t have to destroy the holidays.