It's sort of like a cookie exchange -- the way children get passed around by their divorced parents during the holidays. It can be hard especially if it's the first year that you are doing this exercise. Here are a few guidelines that can help everyone out with this troublesome ritual.
Create some new traditions. Perhaps it's a new approach to gift-giving or maybe visiting friends, attending a play or concert, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or enjoying a special meal prepared by all of you. Hold onto traditions and activities from the past that worked for you and your kids.The aim is to help your kids bookmark memories of your time together.
Be prepared emotionally. It's not easy not being without your kids on Christmas Eve if they have to be with the other parent. But you don't want to make them feel bad or worry about you. So prepare ahead of time for yourself so that they know you are OK. Make plans with a friend or your family to be with people who can support you and will help you create your own new traditions.
Attitude is everything. Get in a positive mode. Remember that spending time with your kids doing enjoyable activities is the best part of this busy season. Bake cookies together. If you are apart on Thanksgiving do Thanksgiving another day at your house so they can help cook and participate. It's only a day on the calendar.
Validate your kids' feelings. This might be very hard for them, having to be trekked around to two different families. Let them know you understand. Don't throw out any guilt about being away from you. This was not their doing. You and your spouse need to keep it between the two of you.
Don't ask, don't tell. Don't interrogate them with what is happening at the other parent's home. No questions about the new boyfriend or girlfriend. Do not put them through the 20 questions. You ask about them and their time if you want to know. Keep your thoughts of exorcism to yourself.
Laugh. There is nothing like a good laugh to change a mood. Try to keep it light. Do things you enjoy like listening to music or working on a puzzle together. Just be together and value the time that you have -- there is no better time than the present. Stay there. It might be hard but it's the greatest gift you can give to yourself and your family.