To start off I need you to know, I am writing this to myself, a brand-new co-parent. I feel as I am the luckiest woman because I not only married the man of my dreams, but I gained three of the sweetest little boys as my stepsons.
Blended families are a tricky thing to navigate and trust me, I learn and grow each and everyday. But one of the best things I've heard in a long time since starting this journey to becoming a stepmama (as I am so affectionally referred to by the littlest one) is there truly can never be too much love. Once I heard those words, I knew it was so true and a reminder maybe all the stepparents and bio-parents need to hear as we enter into the holiday season.
Holidays after a divorce can be hard. Holidays after a divorce with kids can be even harder. I have not walked in my husband's shoes. The shoes who grieved his first Christmas morning without waking up in the same home as his boys. Or the shoes that has struggled each year since. I can never sit here and say I know what that feels like. All I can do is be the supportive wife I vowed to be and encourage him the way I know how.
One thing I have always done is look to others who have been where I'm headed. Social media is a great tool to connect with people who are in similar situations as you but may live a world away. I was encouraged by a holiday post by @stepmomming. She wrote how to navigate when you don't have your bio or step kids on December 25th. One piece of advice was to not sit long in the "what's missing" mindset. The reality is the divorce happened and now this is when or how your holidays are now celebrated. Find gratitude in the time you do have and make the most of it. Plus, just because our world deemed December 25th to be the day of Christmas does not mean your family cannot decide otherwise or create new traditions with your new family unit.
Now, with all that said, what does it take to actually co-parent peacefully and effectively during the holiday season - a season we already established as both uniquely special and uniquely difficult?
Communication - holidays are full of hustle and bustle for a lot of us. Communicating with your co-parent on holiday plans ahead of time is key to reduced stress on the actually holiday event and allows you to be fully present and fully enjoy the moment you're in.
Setting expectations - like discussed earlier, your holidays may look different than many people around you, but you should not compare your situation to theirs. Set your expectations to match your reality and then make the most of your time together.
Setting boundaries - your parenting plan serves as a boundary creator with you and your ex-spouse, but you can take effort to further place personal boundaries to protect your emotional and mental health - especially during the holidays. Some boundaries may include discussing holiday plans during certain times, knowing when you walk away from a conversation, keeping the discussion centered on the children's best interest, etc.
Respect - this may be the most challenging to some co-parents. Divorce stirs up many deep emotions and hurts, but for the sake of the children, you need to respect your co-parent. You need to respect your co-parent's new family members. Back to the advice of there cannot be too much love. Don't allow your past keep you from respecting the reality you live today. Respect that your children have multiple parents in their lives who love them, have your ex-spouse's family who loves them, and quite possibly new family that love them as well - and all deserve the time to show that love to the children during the holidays.
Confide in those you trust - lastly, find people you can confide in. The ones who can show empathy, listen well, and guide you to make the best, most peaceful choices you can make as a co-parent. Taking care of yourself is the best way to be the best co-parent you can be for the children. And that is truly the goal each of us should have, no matter the time of year.
A great resource to further gain tips is this blog and video post our friends at, Brown & Dutton Law Firm, Atlanta Family Law Attorneys @familylawga. Please check out the link below!