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Reader Question: My ex-husband has and I have divorced and he has visitation rights with our two children, ages seven and nine. The kids were scheduled to visit him over the Christmas holidays, but circumstances have changed and I would like some advice. My ex no longer goes to church and is living with a woman. He has made it clear that his girlfriend will be staying with him over Christmas even though our divorce has only been final for six months. I am steaming over this.

The holidays are especially difficult when it comes to family get togethers and divorce. Sometimes, it is hard to know what the best approach is for your children. Divorce can raise a number of issues around the holiday. I understand your frustration, but take a deep breath so you can properly address this situation with your ex.

Children can feel parental stress, but don’t know how to cope with it. Whatever you fought about last year, talk about ahead of time and try to come to agreement on those issues. Next, make sure the children see both parents during the holiday time. Work out a schedule before the season begins and stick to your plans.

That said, your children need time to grieve the loss of the divorce. This will be their first Christmas without mom and dad together. Consequently, it is too soon to introduce a new person and would be confusing.

When kids are forced to be nice around someone who is uncertain, they can repress their feelings. Then those feelings can manifest in depression, defiance, school problems, etc. So you have to talk to your ex about the timing of this for the kids. Since this is a new relationship, it would be best for him to see the kids without the girlfriend right now. He will have plenty of opportunities to introduce his girlfriend to the kids in the future should the relationship become serious. He also needs to know this person better before inserting her into the lives of his children. Rather than commenting on his relationship or lack of church going, keep the conversation focused on the needs of the kids and appeal to his sensibility on taking it slow and giving the children time to grieve and get through the holidays without mom and dad together.

If he refuses to cooperate, you will need to do the best you can to explain what is happening to your children and deal with your frustration privately. I pray he acts like a grown up and puts his children’s needs over his own.

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