Coping Without Custody: How to Adjust When Your Child Spends the Holidays With Your Ex

How do you cope with life after divorce and handle the adjustments that come with child custody? Lee Rosen, retired divorce attorney and founder of the Rosen Law Firm, discusses.


What is the best way to approach the holidays when you don’t have your child? Transcript

Hi. I’m Lee Rosen. What is the best way to approach the holidays when you don’t have your child?

Holidays are a tough time for people going through divorce. I mean, they’re a tough time for people generally in a lot of situations. But, boy, that first Christmas when you don’t have your child with you can be especially difficult. You’re used to waking up on Christmas morning with a child and seeing that light in his or her face, eyes just glowing with excitement over getting the gifts. And maybe this year, it’s not going to happen.

Or maybe it’s a birthday. We had a client recently that every birthday for the past six years when the child got up, he would eat chocolate chip pancakes on a special plate. It was a birthday ritual. And this year, the birthday wasn’t going to take place with our client, and the chocolate chip pancake was going to take place at the other parent’s house.

We’ve been doing this for a long time, and we’ve developed some advice and some tips to make it a little bit easier when you’re dealing with this. This may not be what you want to hear at this point, but compromising can make a big difference over the holidays.

You know, I told you that story about the chocolate chip pancake. And in that situation, we suggested that our client send the plate over to the ex-husband’s house for the birthday. And she looked at me like I was crazy when we said that, but she did it. She sent the special plate over so that the child could have the special pancake on the birthday and Dad could make it. And it touched Dad’s heart. It really changed the dynamic in a situation that wasn’t going particularly well. And her willingness to make a little concession, to make a little compromise really changed the tenor of things going forward.

And so think about ways in which you can be compromising around the holidays or these special events that might start a chain reaction of both parents working together to make this easier for the other parent. Give that some thought. I know that that’s not easy.

Another idea is to create new traditions. Think about doing something different, something unusual. Maybe the child is not going to be with you for Christmas day. Maybe you have something you call extra Christmas or bonus Christmas that year at your house, and every other year we have bonus Christmas in addition to Christmas. You know, I don’t know… your creativity will inspire something. Maybe feedback from your child will trigger whatever it may be. But there are lots of options.

Every family treats holidays differently anyway. Rarely do we all follow the exact same path. There are always little variations on the theme. So, see what you can come up with to do something different and new that might, in fact, ultimately be more special in your family than doing the same old thing that everybody else has been doing in the past.

And then, finally, and this is hard, but it’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to stay positive. You can’t wallow in the upset and the hurt. You’re dealing with your child. You want to give your child your best, and you’ve got to find the energy to get through this and make holidays special. So don’t let the challenge, the difficulty bring you down. It’s just not worth it.

I know it’s easy for me standing here to say these things, and it’s awfully hard to hear it. You’re dealing with awful stuff. You’re unhappy. It’s the holidays, and you don’t have your child. And I understand that that’s a very painful and difficult situation. But I’m giving you the best information I’ve got, the best tips that I’ve been able to pull from watching people go through this for decades.

So do your best to stay positive. Find some compromise. Create some new traditions. That’s the way to make the holidays and special days absolutely the best that they can be for you and for your children.


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