Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

  1. child giftsI am divorced and think my ex spends way too much money on Christmas gifts for our two young kids. This is causing tension between us. It feels like a competition I can’t win. I find myself spending too much because I don’t want to look cheap. He has more money than I do. I think he buys the kids expensive gifts because he feels guilty for leaving. How do I get him to be more reasonable?

 

Getting along with an ex seems to require more intention during the holiday season. To deal with this issue, you need a no competition rule. Instead of trying to one up each other, focus more on how to make the time with the children meaningful and pleasant. Both of you must work together for the sake of the children instead of using them to make a point.

Meet your ex for coffee and talk about gift giving and see if you can work together on a gift list for the kids. If you can’t do this in person, then try email. If there is an expensive gift, then suggest going in on it together.  Don’t bring up other issues. Stay on point and try to coordinate the giving.

If he refuses to work with you, talk about the impact of this on the kids. Resist giving him counseling!

If he continues to buy the children’s affection, be careful not to say this to your children. Simply say, “Wow, really nice gift from daddy,” and drop it. The tension is created by your anger or upset for his lack of cooperation. You may be right about his motivation but to hang on to that resentment only hurts you.

So, present the issue to him, suggest ways to work together for the sake of the kids and see what he does. With or without his cooperation, you can let go of anger/resentment, release the tension and give it to God.

Spend only what is reasonable in your budget and don’t make it a competition. Sometimes when there is a tug of war, the best strategy is to drop the rope. And whatever you do, don’t involve your kids in this issue. Keep in mind that your children won’t remember who bought them the most stuff, but will remember who helped make the holidays a positive and memorable occasion.

 

  1. child shoppingAs much as I love to shop on-line, I prefer to tackle the masses during Christmas and head to the malls and store. My question is, “How can I shop with two little ones (ages two and four) and remain sane?” I will have to take them with me but really want to give it a try.

 

Holiday shopping is possible with young children. It just takes a bit of planning and a careful eye.

I remember the time I lost my three-year-old in a clothing rack. I started to panic and then realized he thought the store was a great place for hide and seek. Lesson learned—explain the rules ahead of time! Before you leave the house, talk about what you are going to do and what is expected of them.I would include a small reward for following directions to be established before you leave. It can be something simple like playing on a playground, listening to a CD in the car, playing a game when you return home, etc.

Remember that shopping for grown-up presents is boring for kids so keep your trips short. You may have to make multiple trips rather than knock it all out in a day. Also remember to feed your kids before you leave home. Food does wonders to cure irritability! Take plenty of snacks and drinks with you because tiny tummies empty quickly. You can take a break, grab a table or sitting space and refresh! Add a small toy or pop up book to your bag in order to divert their interest while roaming the stores.

In terms of security, I’m not big on the leash idea but you need to have some way of keeping those little ones close to your side—whether that’s putting them in a cart, holding hands, shopping with a friend, etc. When you get to your shopping destination, don’t wander. Know where you need to go and which gifts you are purchasing. You might want to research your purchases on-line before you head out to stores in order to have a better idea of best price and availability.

When you shop, buy a gift that involves the children. For example, let them help with buying a toy for a relative or toy for the family pet. Periodically, remind the children of the small reward that will come at the end. Finally, pay attention to their mood. When it starts to deteriorate, it’s time to go home. Head for the car and pat yourself on the back!

Now, get out there!

 

Today’s video blog offers a big tip on how to stress less during the holiday season. Check it out on my video blog!

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grief2Today, on Cyber Monday, I won’t be shopping. I will be attending the funeral of my neighbor who, at 64 years of age, was working in his yard and died. His death was sudden and unexpected. I wished him Happy Thanksgiving before I left to visit family and a few hours later he collapsed in his yard. I will never see or speak to him again. His wife never saw it coming. Now, she will face the holidays without her husband of 40 years. So sad.

When I was on Janet Parshall’s radio show a few weeks ago, so many of the calls were about loss during the holidays. So for all of us who have lost a loved one during this time, here are some tips to help us get through this time, grieve, remember, but not get stuck in our grief.

1) Grieve. Acknowledge the loss and allow the feelings to come. So many things can trigger grief during this time–music, commercials, photographs, etc. The year my mom died just before Christmas, I remember baking and suddenly feeling overwhelmed. I needed to ask my mom a question about the baking and I couldn’t. For whatever reason, this hit me hard and I started to cry. I realized that so much of my mom’s contribution to the holidays was her incredible baking. Baking triggered the memory.

2) Attend a support group if it would be helpful. This is no time to be strong and go it alone. Grief needs to be shared. Find people who can listen and grieve with you.

3) Reach out to someone in need. One of the best antidotes to feeling down and saddened is to do something for someone else. Take an angel off the Angel tree, volunteer in a soup kitchen, visit a shelter or hospital, participate in a church activity or community event. Giving to others takes your mind off yourself and improves your mood.

4) Resist the urge to compare your situation to others. It’s easy to look at people celebrating and feel deprived or resentful. Don’t go there. Anger will come as part of the grieving process, but don’t allow that anger to move to resentment.

5) Have an exit strategy if you become overwhelmed. Find a quiet room in a family get together, leave the church sanctuary for a side room to cry, etc.

6) Honor the memory of the person. Talk about the person rather than avoiding the loss. In our family, we talk about mom’s pies and how much we miss them, the sound of her laughter, the love for her grandkids, etc. Share a favorite story. Laugh about funny moments. This helps keep the memories alive.

7) If the loss is fresh, don’t push yourself. Do as little or as much as you feel you can handle. There is no right way to handle grief. Pay attention to your physical life–sleep, eating well and resting.

8) Allow yourself moments of joy and laughter without feeling guilty. There will be moments of joy and laughter. Allow them to come. You can’t sustain grief 24/7 or your body will be too stressed. Sometimes a light distraction like a funny movie can even help.

9) Remind yourself that this too shall pass. The intensity of grief lessens with time. Time does heal. As the months go by, you will feel stronger and better, but it does take time.

10) Comfort yourself with God’s Word. God is a present help in time of trouble. He knows our grief and our sorrows and promises to comfort us. Ask Him to help you through this difficult time.