The Twelve Tips of Christmas (or, how to survive the holidays in a divorced or blended family)
1. Santa can come to more than one house, and on more than one day. After all, he’s magic.
2. Time with your child need not be counted out like coins. It doesn’t matter if your child spends an hour more with one parent or the other. It doesn’t matter if you have to do all the driving. Keep focused on the bigger issues of celebration of the holiday and all that it represents, and the joy that is all around you.
3. It is not a competition between you and the Other Parent (OP). Don’t be jealous. It is not a good look for anyone.
4. Use extra effort to be respectful of the OP, both in person and when he or she is not around. This is not the time to discuss all their flaws. You can wait until the new year to do that. Write it down if you think you’ll forget (haha).
5. Forgive and forget the small stuff. Cookies get burned, kids peek at their presents, no one always gets everything they want, sometimes someone else gets what you wished for. Let it go. You are the grown up. Show your child how it’s done.
6. Remember that your child Loves the Other Parent. Help your child buy or make a present for the OP. Help them wrap it and make sure it is delivered. If you’re lucky, the OP will do the same for you. If not, you can be king or queen of the high road. Have an extra cookie, you deserve it.
7. If your child is not with you for the holiday, don’t share your sadness with the child. The child is not responsible for your feelings, and it will ruin their holiday. You don’t want them to have a bad day, and you sure don’t want them to dread the holidays and then plan to be in another country when you are old and want them to come visit for Christmas.
8. If possible, coordinate gifts with your OP. You don’t want to give the second Ninja costume. Although, if there are two, there’s one for each house. Also, do not buy a drum set or any kind of pet for your child to keep at the OP’s house.
9. Embrace new traditions, but for those of you that are blending, be sure to respect the old ones, too. Even if you think they are dumb. Even if they are dumb. Our new tradition became watching a seriously funny comedy movie on Christmas afternoon. (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is now competing with Elf for top billing). Laughing feels good.
10. Make a plan and a personal commitment to being more flexible and patient for the next two weeks. Scheduling some “me time” helps, even in 10 minute increments. However, do not use your “me time” to sneak a shot of peppermint schnapps.
11. Do not make any big announcements about family issues. Trust me, it is NOT the right time, even if you think it is good news. Everyone is on emotional overload already.
12. Remember, Santa is magic. Even if you are apart from your child for all or part of the holiday, you may discover something positive or even valuable that you did not expect, even if it is just the fact that you were able to make it through the day without them and live to tell about it.