1) Don’t be consumed with the actual date you have your children on special occasions.
Celebrate the occasion not the date. Holidays like Thanksgiving and Easter have changing dates annually. Allow yourself to let the other holidays dates or birthdays to be flexible also. This will save you lots of sadness and anxiety. When you do have your children, celebrate just like you would have if you had been with them on the actual date of the holiday or birthday.
2) Create new traditions for yourself on dates that were important to you in the past so that you don’t allow negativity to take over.
My husband and I started a special tradition of going on a special date on Christmas Eve and giving our gifts to each other that night as well. Christmas Eve used to be a big deal for both of us with our kids but neither of our schedules are set up for having children on Christmas Eve anymore. We have turned Christmas Eve into a night that feels like our anniversary instead of being sad we don’t have our children. Christmas morning we get up and go get all of them and have a great day.
3) Consider what is best for you kids on holidays and birthdays and not what is best for yourself.
Most children want to see both parents on special occasions. This requires flexibility and not thinking what is easiest for you but instead what is best for them. It might feel like a bother to split up Halloween but your kids will love trick or treating the two neighborhoods they know and seeing both parents. If your divorce is amicable (and most really can be unless there is abuse involved), spend birthdays or holidays together in some way. This might seem impossible when you first get divorced but it is what makes children feel at peace. They are the most important piece of the equation and these holidays and birthdays are really about them. When my children have a birthday, I usually host and my former spouse and his wife and her kids all come and celebrate as well. The more unification your children see, the less chance of them playing games with divorced parents in the future.
4) Don’t try to compete with your former spouse on gifts and outspend or outdo them.
Children caught up in these situations usually get way too many gifts and just end up losing appreciation for what they have. They come to expect way more than they should. Doubling up on everything sets a difficult precedent for the future and one they might not be able to provide for their own family someday. Communicate with your former spouse and come up with a game plan for gifts that will be equal to what would have been received if you still lived under the same roof.
5) If you are in a blended family situation, treat everyone equal including the new spouse married to your former spouse.
Step-children should be treated exactly like biological children. Go out of your way to make your home as welcome and comforting to your step-children as your own children even if they have a hard time respecting your role at first. Stay with it, especially on special occasions, and the family will blend together the way you have envisioned. Get to know your former spouses’ new spouse and acknowledge them on holidays and birthdays. This also means acknowledging your former spouse. Remember that your kids are always watching and they want to see an amicable relationship and even a friendship if you can get there.
I know this is a hard list to accomplish and my advice to all that are divorced or in a blended family is to start with at least one of the items and then keep adding them year by year until you have succeeded. Your children will forever be grateful that you put them first and put the divorce behind you to do what is best for them. It doesn’t matter why you got divorced (unless there was abuse), it matters that you have children that want a normal life and want special occasions to be about family and love.