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Can your kids really have a merry Christmas after divorce?

The first Christmas after a divorce is often the worst holiday challenge parents have to face -- every tradition you've had over the last few years is suddenly turned upside down or inside out.

How do you handle it so that the kids can cope with the changes, accept that things aren't like they used to be and still enjoy themselves?

Here are some tips:

1. Take the kids shopping for their other parent and grandparents.

The holidays are about affection. Don't deny your children the chance to show their affection for their other parent and the grandparents (or any other close relatives on that side of the family). Not only does that normalize things a bit for the holidays but it signals to the kids that it's okay to be excited about seeing their mother or father and spending holiday time with that parent too.

2. Start a few new traditions.

If you always opened presents the first thing Christmas morning but that's now complicated because of visitation schedule, switch things around. If you have custody on Christmas Eves, make that the time you open your presents.

3. Embrace the spirit of Christmas past -- with your ex.

If you have some old traditions that you want to keep, talk to your ex about who is going to handle which tasks.

For example, if everybody always got new pajamas on Christmas Eve and a book to help them fall asleep -- talk to your ex about who is going to buy the pajamas and the books. That way, there's no awkward "duplicating" that makes the kids feel like they have to choose.

4. Put your happy face on during custody exchanges.

You will probably feel awkward walking into your ex's parent's house to drop off the kids or pick them up after their time visiting is over -- but put your biggest smile on and keep it there. Consider taking a plate of cookies or a gift basket you can hand off in order to make things a little more comfortable and casual.

Surviving the first holiday season after your divorce isn't impossible -- but how you handle this one could set the tone for years to come. For more advice on family law issues, including holiday custody problems, talk to an attorney today.

Source: Woman's Divorce, "Parenting After Divorce - Christmas Tips for Happy Holidays," accessed Nov. 09, 2017

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