No Holiday from Your Ex-In-Laws? Four Strategies for Happier Holidays

Your divorce is final. You’re moving on with your lives. Your kids have adjusted to the new routine. But divorce doesn’t just involve your immediate family. Typically, there are family members on both sides of the split who may not come into consideration until … the holidays roll around.

Not sure how to manage your ex-in-laws this holiday season? If they’ve always been Scrooges, chances are they haven’t come to terms with the Ghost of Christmas Past yet. People can and do change, but it may be more productive to accept that things will not be different this year. “Setting realistic expectations is the key to not getting frustrated or angry with your partner’s family. says Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., relationship therapist and author. “It’s inevitable that there will be differences and disagreements, but don’t try to change them or assume that things will be different this year.”

Here are four strategies for making the best of estranged relationships during this festive time of year:

  1. Post It: You may be tempted to trim your annual holiday card list, but one of the easiest gestures you can make towards your ex-in-laws is to send a holiday card. Especially if you have children, sending a card to the cousins and other extended family members will allow them to stay connected in an appropriate way.
  2. Wrap It: If possible, have a discussion with your ex about who should be responsible for purchasing gifts for grandparents and other relatives. Even if a gift seems inappropriate or unnecessary, when your children are spending time with their extended family over the holidays, you may want to send along a traditional treat, such as cookies.
  3. Text It: Thankfully, mobile devices make it easier than ever to send a note acknowledging the holidays —without the need to have an awkward conversation or be intrusive.
  4. Respect It: Even if you’re still at odds with your ex, try to call a Christmas truce. Allowing your children to enjoy the holiday with their cousins, aunts and uncles should be more important than scrabbling over who gets the Christmas china.

Remember, you don’t have to pretend that everything is jolly and bright. Take the opportunity put into practice the real reason for the season: unconditional love. And if you do have a holiday melt-down, you can always resolve to do better in the New Year.