Thanksgiving can be a particularly difficult holiday to plan for and experience after a divorce. No matter what you agreed to regarding custody for the holiday, it’s hard to imagine not being able to keep that “family tradition” going. You haven’t yet reached the new “normal” from the divorce and it may not be easy emotionally to cope. But just because you have a plan for the holidays and agreement in place, let’s not forget that your family and your ex-spouse’s family are still your children’s entire family. Think about the benefits of co-sharing these holidays, whether physically or emotionally, for your children and for the sake of being great co-parents. Being successful co-parents may require “outside-of-the-box” thinking, regardless of what your divorce agreement says. Here are a few new ideas for Thanksgiving and co-parenting:
1) Thanksgiving Breakfast and Dinner: For some parents and children, the thought of not spending quality time together on Thanksgiving is extremely upsetting. But there is an alternative to the standard “alternating years.” Although most think of Thanksgiving as a dinner tradition, why not also create a new tradition of having a Thanksgiving breakfast as well? As parents you can agree that the one who doesn’t have Thanksgiving dinner can have them for Thanksgiving breakfast. It won’t work if you're flying to Florida and you’ll have to agree to keep the breakfast fare light because “Aunt Ellen” would “just die” if the yams aren’t gone…but you get the point. Believe me, your children will appreciate having time with each parent on the holiday and it can become your new unique annual tradition.
2) Thankfulness: Whenever you can on this holiday, try to be thankful for everyone in your life, even your former spouse. Everyone has their own set of traditions. If your family is like mine, perhaps you go around the dinner table giving “thanks” for things. How would your children react if, on your thankful list, you included your former spouse this year? Your children will appreciate knowing that you are thinking of their other parent in a positive way. Emotionally and developmentally, your children will only benefit hearing you talk and act in this way (and reminder that it would be helpful to do this all the time, not just once a year). Even if you do not have a great relationship with your ex, I promise you this will go a long way with your children.
3) Hosting Thanksgiving Yourself?: Consider extending an invitation to your former spouse, even if he/she has a new family. Being together for the holidays can have a significantly positive impact on your children, so long as there is no conflict between parents. It may also set an amazing imprint on your children, and create lasting memories. We are talking about one day - Thanksgiving. Think about how many worse “one-day’s” you have survived through. You may actually be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
4) Friendsgiving: If you are not going to see your children on Thanksgiving, maybe sometime soon before or soon after you re-create the spirit of the holiday and have your children and some friends and their children over for a “Friendsgiving”. Perhaps you even invite your former spouse, too. You can ask everyone to bring a dish and all share the meal together, even if it’s not the actual day. Less stress, same concept of thanks…and more leftovers!
You’ve gone through a divorce. It’s tough to be thankful for that, but you should still be thankful for what has been accomplished, if nothing else, those amazing kids of yours! Try for this holiday, and for every day, to keep the kids above all else and be thankful for them and what you can do for them and you can always be thankful to your former spouse for them.
Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!
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Scott W. Orr
A dynamic, seasoned, and innovative legal professional with broad and in-depth experience as a lawyer and corporate legal officer/executive. Skilled mediator with recognized ability to identify, Learn more