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Post-Divorce: Keep Holiday Traditions Alive WITHOUT Conflict

I recently listened in on an IG live chat about how to navigate "Elf on the Shelf" when you are co-parenting. It gave me pause. Ok, let me confess I already HATE "Elf on the Shelf" but I know it brings many people a lot of joy. However, fighting over it with your co-parent? Is it really worth all that? I think not.


When you lived under one roof, you maybe had a lot of holiday traditions as a family - some of them important to you, some to your co-parent, some to your kids. Now that you are apart, it is only natural that each of you have your own traditions in your own home. If you are amicable with your co-parent, perhaps you still have some combined traditions or spend holiday days together. If you aren't...well, that's a different story.


If you are used to conflict with a co-parent, you might not even realize how much you contribute to fight escalation. And how much inserting yourself in their traditions can lead to increased arguments and negative thoughts. Consider Elf on the Shelf as an example. Perhaps the elf is really important to you. Perhaps your kids love watching that little guy move around all December. Perhaps your co-parent doesn't. What to do?


Even when it comes to holiday traditions, it is crucial that you remember that you have NO control over what happens in your co-parent's home. You and the kids are onboard with the elf. He/she isn't. You might think it best to email/text or discuss it and explain WHY they must move the elf, or give them an elf along with little reminders to move the elf daily when the kids are at their home. It might feel justified because you know how much your kids enjoy the elf.


Let's pause and think about that for a second, though. How would YOU feel if your ex sent you text reminders to do something you don't want to do (that has nothing to do with child safety or true well-being)? I bet you would be annoyed, if not deeply angered. If the kids really want the elf at mom/dad's house, the kids can use their voices and talk about it with their other parent. It doesn't have to be your fight.


The best way to handle the elf in a situation like this is to do it your way when the kids are with you, and let them do it theirs when the kids are with them. Don't insert yourself into the holiday happenings at their home if you aren't invited to. After all, you don't want them inserting themselves into yours!


Keep it simple and get creative. If a tradition such as the elf is important for you, make it happen in your home. When the kids are gone, move the elf and take photos. Create an album to share with the kids so they see what the elf did while "on vacation." Or, if the kids are old enough and have their own phones/devices, send them photos of the moving elf each morning. However you choose to address it, make sure it is only in a way that involves you and does not involve asserting control in another household (your ex's).


Remember: the most important thing to do during the holidays as a co-parent is focus on your kids and their happiness. Traditions are great, but not fighting over them is even better! If you and your co-parent are good communicators, think about making a list of traditions you both would like to continue and talk about how to navigate them together. If you aren't, consider keeping your traditions in your own home and letting them do things their way in theirs.

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