In our previous post, we discussed the different ways parents who are divorcing or divorced can work Christmas and winter break to the best advantage for the children and for peace in each household. In this post, we consider some other important issues beyond just equalizing physical time.
Though society tend to make Christmas a rather commercial holiday, for many of us Christmas remains an important religious holiday, and this can become problematic in divorced households. Why? Not all families after divorce celebrate at the same church, or even in the same denomination, and these interreligious squabbles can become magnified at a central holiday.
Courts generally stay out of religious custody issues – unless it is a threat to the physical or psychological welfare of the child, courts will allow each parent to expose the children to his or her religion and place of worship. But parents can make agreements that courts cannot otherwise order, and we have found this route to be the most effective, as each parent helps form the solution.
Where parents are of the same faith and denomination, but attend a different church, a compromise may involve nothing more than who gets a Christmas eve and who gets a Christmas day. Again, looking to history can be a good guide, following what the family did while intact.
Where parents have the same faith but different denominations, traditions may vary more noticeably and each parent should try to be sensitive and accommodate where possible. If the parents have already agreed to raise the children in a particular faith, that decision should guide celebrating Christmas.
Where parents have different faiths, Christmas can bring up difficult issues that may have even contributed to the divorce. If the parents have not agreed on a faith in which to raise the children, they should try and respect each other’s religions and allow the children to experience the same with each parent, at least until the children reach an age where they can articulate a choice of faith. Since one faith will not celebrate Christmas, it is less the time that is at issue but the celebration itself. Again, the courts cannot take sides here, so it is best the parents reach some level of respect on this issue.
Beyond religion, many families had a variety of traditions during the marriage that might continue after, from gift giving to dinner at a certain home. Ideally, families should try and continue these traditions to the extent they mattered a great deal to the children and gave them a sense of togetherness and continuity during the marriage. It also helps ease tension between the extended families of each parent.
What if only one traditional event can take place? In this situation, parents should see if they can share this event. In some families, the acrimony may be too deep to have a joint celebration, or even invite the former spouse. But in families where this is not the case, bringing both parents together can make life much easier for the children and help them see that their parents can come together at important events for them.
Another common issue involves gift giving – what if one parent earns more money and has a greater ability to spoil the children? Again, the best way to approach this issue is to discuss it openly. If one parent feels the other trying to make one look bad, the parents can reach a solution by agreeing to spend the same amount, or having the higher earning parent provide some extra gifts to the lesser earning spouse to give to the children. Parents can find many solutions that keep money issues out of the holiday experience, but they must acknowledge them and discuss them first.
We found an interesting article that highlights the issues we discussed in these last two posts, and you can find it here.
We hope you enjoy the holidays!
If you have questions about Christmas and divorce, contact us – we can help.