Family

When You Should Spend the Holidays with Your Ex — and When You Shouldn't

Gina Kirschenheiter is getting divorced, but happily spent Thanksgiving with her ex. 

The Real Housewives of Orange County mom Gina Kirschenheiter is going through the process of divorcing her husband, Matt Kirschenheiter, but the two enjoyed a family Thanksgiving together, which she called "amazing." She even shared a pic of of this year's very different celebration, which included their three children, Nicholas, 6, Sienna, 4, and Luca, 3, and the fam's new pup Hilda

While it's hard for many former couples who share kids to even be in the same room together, never mind share a holiday meal, Gina and Matt aren't the norm for a divorcing couple. They truly appear to be warm toward each other, and are doing the best they can for their kids. 

But should you force yourself to spend the holidays with your ex for the sake of the kids? Personal Space asked a family and love coach for some advice. 

"Spending the holidays together may seem great for the children, but it's not always great for you," said Laurie Davis Edwards, founder of The Worthy One. "This is especially true if your marriage ended because it's toxic for you. Putting that person and their energy back into your life — even for a day — can create emotional upheaval. Whether you intend to or not, you are allowing them into your life, not just your children's. If you have a healthy relationship, that's wonderful. But if you don't, it's not."

Edwards said one client she currently works with has been friends with her ex since they split, sharing holidays and dinners, and it's only created instability for her. "As things change in his life, how she feels in hers shifts — and that often blocks her subconsciously from having clarity in her new relationship," she said.

Edwards explained that we hear the term "self-care" so often, meaning making time for ourselves to take a bath or get a mani-pedi, but there is another part we need to nurture, too.

"That is self-care — physical self-care — which is important. But what's also important that we often avoid is emotional self-care — honoring our feelings and putting ourselves first," she said. "So before you spend time with your ex's family, ask yourself: Is this what's best for me? If it's not, it's likely to not be what's best for your children, too."

If you do have to spend a holiday with your ex, experts say be flexible; holidays don't have to be celebrated on the exact date the calendar says they land on. Plan ahead, try to be grateful for what you do have, and learn to create new family traditions that suit your new family dynamic.

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