Marjorie JamesLast week, I posited possible problems and challenges facing ex-spouses as they come up to the holiday season. Their divorce is final, but they still have their children to think about. There may well be uncertainty and concern mixed in as the holidays approach.

With these questions in hand, I talked to a Collaborative family counselor, Kristin Little, for some insights and solutions. If her name sounds familiar, it is because she was featured in an article about divorce in The Seattle Times recently. She is very wise and knowledgeable when it comes to this subject, so I was pleased to be able to “pick her brain” a bit. The following information is taken from her answers to my questions.

It is all about balancing the different needs and interests of the family members. The children are obviously the first priority because holidays and celebrations are a valuable part of their childhoods. However, the adults need to be honest with themselves, each other, and the children (as appropriate) about their ability to share special times with each other. If parents do not spend time discussing this issue with each other, “celebrations” will be stressful, and arguments may erupt, especially if there are unresolved feelings parents need to deal with.

Kristin states that parents need to “manage shared times” to show that parents have “a different, yet supportive relationship that allows kids to experience fun with both.” A practical idea that Kristin suggested is that the time together is defined so that there is a specific beginning and end. In other words, parents and children know the time span involved.

The celebration of holidays will always be a flexible process, changing as new partners are involved and children grow older. Both parents need to be able to change and adjust to new circumstances. Kristin states that parents should not “force themselves to do something that is unrealistic. If that’s the case, then there is no shame in being forthright and creating a plan for the holidays that creates times for both parents to celebrate individually…Whatever families decide, the most important things for parents to keep in mind is to protect children from conflict while allowing them generous access to both parents, encouraging good relationships.”

Kristin gave me much more information and suggestions, so I will continue this train of thought next week.

Copyright 2013. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.