💔Parenting while divorced during the holidays can be challenging

💔One NJ counselor offers coping tips

💔Realize that the holidays are for the kids, so focus on creating happy memories

Are you a divorced parent of young children living in New Jersey?

As if the holidays weren’t stressful enough with everything that has to get done, trying to navigate the holidays with young children as a divorced parent can take on another level of stress.

But there are productive and healthy ways to make the holidays less stressful for divorced parents and their children.

There is no reason not to, and every reason to sit down with your ex-partner and plan out what you’re going to do, where you’re going, and what traditions you want to bestow upon your children, said Dr. Marty Tashman, a marriage and family therapist in Somerset County.



Tashman said it’s very common for exes to fight about money during the holidays. There is always this fear that one parent will try to “outdo” the other when it comes to buying gifts for their children. No one likes to be outshined by their ex, so, if possible, try sitting down with your ex and rationally discussing a budget, he said.

Also, sit down with your child and give them some idea of possibilities. But don’t oversell the expectation.

“So, setting up a budget for adults and setting up a budget letting kids know is an interesting place to start,” Tashman said.

Hopefully, people love their kids enough to say, okay, this is the budget we can both work with, and it’s matched so there isn’t this competition. Kids can get in the crossfire, Tashman said.

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Splitting time and planning

During the holiday season when most kids are off between Christmas and New Year’s, it may be difficult for divorced parents to come up with a schedule. Who gets the child on Christmas? New Year’s? Some people may have this figured out in their custody agreement. But others may not, which can cause stress.

But, despite your relationship with your ex, Tashman said to keep the child in the front of your mind and how they will respond to splitting their time.

Have a couple of things planned like watching a movie, skating, or going to a friend’s house. Always have some activities in mind, Tashman said.

Dad and sons with saw
Photo: hiddenpondtreefarm.com

Sit down with your child and make a plan of things you want to do together on their break. Write it down, then share that plan with your ex-partner, Tashman said. That way, there is a concrete list of things in place. It’s okay to deviate from the plan and make compromises.

It’s really key that people who are no longer together are open with each other and respectful, Tashman said. There is a way to gauge that. Don’t interrupt your ex-partner when he or she is speaking, and don’t talk over them. Talk to each other respectfully.

Realize that the holiday is for the children. Giving them special time and making happy memories for them is what matters most, he said. You want them to grow up remembering that even though their parents were not together, they have happy memories of the holidays with each of them, and not dreadful ones, Tashman added.

Lonely Christmas


When you’re used to being with your children day in and day out, and then, all of a sudden, due to divorce, you find yourself without them, feelings of loneliness can overwhelm us, Tashman said.

So, do things that can lift your spirits. That could be singing, listening to music, or watching a movie that you saw when you were a kid which triggers positive memories.


Be open to negotiations, Tashman advised. Look for positive things to say and understand your ex-partner, regardless of history.

“The more you offer an olive branch to whoever you’re trying to negotiate a time with, the better it is so that everyone ends up being a winner,” Tashman said.

interior christmas. magic glowing tree, fireplace and gifts

Learn to disagree agreeably

Tashman really stressed this, and even more importantly, keeping the bitterness out of your voice and attitude when talking to your ex about holiday plans with the kids.

Don’t lose perspective, Tashman said, adding that it's important for people to remember that Christmas is just one day out of the year.

In a divorce, each partner is determined to have his or her own way. But the lower-key you are, the more of a gift you can give your youngster, Tashman said.

happy family sitting by fireplace on Christmas Eve
Getty Images/iStockphoto

But whatever you do, you’re setting precedence for the next holiday. Tashman said parents don’t want the holidays to be something that the children dread.

“On one side it’s a tremendous opportunity, and on the other side, it’s a real thing to be cautious about,” Tashman said.

We can all remember holiday times, one way or the other. They may have been positive memories or negative memories. Tashman said you always want the holidays to be positive memories for children, no matter the marital situation.

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