It isn’t just your first Christmas after a divorce that’s tough; it’s all of them, at least while the kids are still little. You’ve gone through a family law attorney, and all that is settled, but that first one is definitely a doozy—nothing has emotions on high more than spending the first Christmas apart from your partner, and the kids feel that impact all around. The hardest, and the most necessary goal is to keep Christmas about your kids above all else. Divorces are difficult on everybody; let them have Christmas time to remember that they’re still thankful to have two parents.

Your Tone Implies a Lot

When it’s just you and the kids, or when they’re going to be spending time at the other parents’ home, there’s a common thread between both households—resentment. It’s not an easy thing to get over, but you have to remember not to voice any negativity. It’s about your children, so let it be about them, and don’t make them feel bad or guilty for going to the other parents’ home for the holidays. Keep a positive tone when you talk about the other parent, because it’s still the mother/father of your child, and they don’t need the confusion.

Plan Fun Activities

It seems cliché to go to the zoo or a carnival right after a divorce, but parents often do it for a reason. Don’t let guilt drive your ambition—make your kids smile, and plan out a few events for the month of December if you can help it. One tradition that separated parents often do on Christmas, they aren’t spending it together with their children (see co-parenting below), is take the kids to the movies. A lot of new releases premier on Christmas day, and it will give them something to talk about when they go back to school after the break. If they’re spending the morning at the other parents’ house, plan a fun afternoon after presents and dinner are sorted out.

Try a Co-Parenting Holiday Season

It may not be the easiest thing, but if you can co-parent on Christmas together, you can do it for the rest of the year. The biggest thing here is to be the bigger parent. If you feel as though the other parent is resorting to petty, emotion-driven tactics—and they very well may be—ignore the negativity aside. One thing will become apparent in due time: everyone will see them as the harsh parent, and that negative tone can only last so long before it’s pointed out to them. Co-parent because your children deserve it, but be sure to get all of the co-parenting rules taken care of when you go through a family law attorney.

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