Whether you are going through a divorce or are divorced, the holidays often present a daunting challenge. The most difficult part for parents is often finding a balance for their children. Some couples can co-parent easily, while others seem to fail dismally.
If you have a parenting plan in place, then review it carefully and follow as closely as possible the terms of the agreement. However, it is impossible to cover every detail in the parenting plan/visitation plan. Consequently, whether you have a parenting plan or not, you may want to begin your attempt at co‑parenting the holidays by keeping the following in mind:
- CELEBRATION MEALS
Make a reasonable schedule for where and when the children will eat holiday meals. It may not be comfortable for them to take on two big meals in one day, so consider how best to accomplish your traditional family celebrations; commence new traditions. Consistent with the first suggestion in co-parenting, if considering “old” or former family traditions overwhelms you or makes you feel sad, then focus on what new traditions you can create going forward. This is your chance to try out any wacky or unusual holiday games and fun you never had the opportunity to try before. Get your kids involved in the planning and implementation of such new holiday activities. When kids are involved, you will find that they will enjoy them again and again year after year, and who knows what new family traditions you will be creating.
Decide how and when gift exchanges for the children will take place. Talk about the gifts you plan to give the children to avoid duplication. Avoid trying to outdo each other in gift giving. You may wish to consider engaging in an activity with the children instead of giving a material gift. They could be serving Christmas dinner to the needy or some other charitable contribution or giving back to society. You should also conduct a discussion of how the gifts will travel back and forth to each other’s homes.
Practice random acts of kindness (including on your ex). Surprise your former partner (and maybe yourself) by being a little kinder or more flexible than usual on the phone or in person. In doing so, you can incorporate the “stop-look-and listen method.” STOP yourself from reacting in anger by taking deep breaths, making yourself aware of your feelings; LOOK at all your options before responding, and pick one that will keep the conflict from growing; and LISTEN to your better nature and choose the response that shows wisdom, guidance, and understanding. For instance, instead of stating, “You make me crazy when you are always late to pick up the kids! Why can’t you be more responsible?” You may want to state: “I really feel stressed when the schedule for the kids gets off track. Can we work together somehow to smooth this out for all of us?”
If one parent is planning a trip, both of you need to agree upon the basics and upon the details of the travel plans, so that the parent who remains at home is aware of the status of their children during each phase of the trip.
Remember, try to be flexible and keep your children first in your conversations.
Above all, give your children permission to love both parents and both families. They are connected to and love both sides of their family, and your children should not have to hide that fact.
Holidays are for our children, and they should be center stage. Children are easily influenced and often remember holidays for a lifetime. It is important for them to associate holidays with happy times, even under the most difficult of circumstances.
Consequently, in co-parenting during the holidays, when in doubt, err on the best interests of your children.
To learn more about co-parenting during the holidays, see: “The Best Gift You Can Give Your Children This Holiday Season: You,” by Jonathan Verk and Judge Sherrill A. Ellsworth at Thrive Global by clicking here: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/co-parenting-during-stressful-holiday-season-tips/