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Tips for Separated Parents During the Holidays

Let’s face it, the holidays can be stressful for families even in the best circumstances. But with the added stress of separation or divorce, long-distance relationships or co-parenting, what’s supposed to be the most joyous time of the year can be a challenge for fathers and their families.

Parenting experts have solid suggestions for coping with these holiday challenges:

Divorce and parenting coach Rosalind Sedacca believes successful navigation through the holidays often comes down to facing the season with a positive attitude: adjusting expectations, showing compassion and accepting change.

If old traditions can’t continue, create new ones, she suggests, such as trying out new recipes together or taking children to a shelter for homeless people – or pets – to show them the spirit of the season.

Single parents should not dwell on the “alone times.” If circumstances or custody arrangements mean you will be spending the holiday apart from your children, be creative and make the most of the time by communicating fun tips around common interests (sports, weather, TV or storybook characters) with children via email, text, creating bonds at a distance like going to the same movie and discussing it by phone later, schedule a Skype session or make a video to send.

Don’t focus on yourself when you are not with your children. Make plans to celebrate with other family members or friends. Help others by serving meals to the homeless or a participate in a gift drive.

Plan ahead and be patient. Dr. James Bray, associate professor of family and community medicine at Baylor University, says planning and patience can save the day. Make sure details about scheduling, if children are shuttling between homes, are set in advance, but be flexible if snafus like travel delays upset the plan.

Bray also says don’t forget that holiday changes can affect blended families too who may have to adjust to a new holiday schedule or different traditions.

The most important thing for parents to remember, writes family lawyer Randi Rubin, is that the holidays are about children, not them. “Even if you are unable to be with your children during a holiday, encourage them to enjoy themselves with the other parent and their extended family,” said Rubin. “Try to embrace the spirit of the holiday season, let go of anger and be thankful for what you have versus what you have lost.”


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