The holidays are special times for most families. But there are families who are separated for one reason or another. One of the biggest challenges for separated fathers is feeling a loss of connection with their children.

Separated families face challenges during the holidays like coordinating parenting schedules and often dealing with mixed emotions and feelings. The following guidelines can help alleviate some of the challenges separated or blended families face during the holidays.

Tips for Separated or Blended Families to Navigate the Holidays

  • Guard against any erratic behavior by yourself or your former partner. Your children need to be children – not spectators or referees.
  • Make sure that a parenting plan for the holidays is understood and followed. Few separated parents can negotiate on the fly. Given the preceding, try to be flexible at a time when spontaneity and children go together.
  • Reach out to friends or relatives and ask for their support. Many of us find that ‘reaching out’ to be difficult. Be honest with what you need from your family and friends and don’t be afraid to ask for their support.
  • Focus on making best of your time with your children. Depending on the time and place of your family in the separation process, many children of all ages (toddlers to adults) are going to be struggling with two Christmas homes, divided families and loyalty tug-of-wars. It is a time to build a new normalcy and calm for everyone.
  • Don’t spend more than you can afford. Older children know your reality – younger children enjoy simpler things. Partner up with other family members for larger purchases.
  • Children from blended families notice disparity in gifts. Try to balance whenever possible.
  • Blended families may have to deal with a disparity because the other parent has different means available to them (e.g. no other children to buy for). While this is life and difficult to control parents need to be sensitive to the problem and try to work it through with the child if necessary.
  • Children are not the sole possessions of one parent or one side of their extended family. A parent can be the best parenting model through their generosity of spirit.
  • If you have a new partner and family, enjoy and appreciate their gifts of love, support and family. Blend old and new Christmas traditions.

Dad, you got this!

For additional resources, download our e-booklet Full-time Dad Part-time Kids for separated fathers or our e-booklet One Step at a Time for blended families.

Editor’s note: these tips were originally shared by Barry Lillie in a previous blog post