Holidays can be as stressful as they are joyous even in the most regular of years. However, when you are a parent who is divorced or separated, it can make the upcoming holiday season that much more daunting. In this article, we will discuss tips to help successfully navigate the holiday season as a co-parent.
#1 Have and Abide by a Set Schedule
While some co-parents have a holiday parenting time schedule that has been filed and ordered by the Court, other co-parents do not. If you fall into the former category, abide by the outlined schedule, and follow the advice outlined in the sections below. If, however, you fall into the latter category, be aware that there are several ways to divvy up the holidays.
For example, some co-parents alternate holidays: one parent gets the kids for Christmas Eve one year and the other parent gets the kids for Christmas Eve the next. Or, some co-parents split the day: one parent gets the morning of Thanksgiving, the other gets the evening and vice versa the following year. The most important thing is to have a set schedule before the holidays arrive so that it does not cause conflict between you and your co-parent during the actual holiday season, resulting in damage to your children’s enjoyment of the same.
#2 Be Civil, Be Communicative, Be Kid-Conscious
We understand more than most how personally detrimental and destructive a divorce or separation can be, especially when children are involved. When compounded by the stress of the holidays, it may feel all too easy to allow the space between separate homes to become a battleground. However, in order to successfully co-parent during the holiday season, it is imperative that both come together in civility, understanding that the children are your common ground, not your weapons.
Accordingly, the best thing you and your co-parent can do is establish a consistent method of communication, abide by your holiday schedule to the best of your abilities, touch base with the other party if something unexpected arises, make compromises and, most importantly, remember that your children are trying to adjust to their new view of the holidays and your actions can set the tone for future holiday seasons. As such, treat your co-parent with grace and demonstrate to your kids that this new way of celebrating is not the end of their beloved traditions but an opportunity to create new ones, knowing that they are loved and cared for every step of the way.
Never speak ill of your co-parent to your children. This sort of alienation is not only unlawful but breeds negative feelings and connotations around the holidays. Remember, your kids often follow your queue. The more civil, communicative, and kid-conscious you can be, the more the kids will learn to adjust to their new way of holiday celebration instead of dreading its yearly arrival. On the other side of this, however, give your children space to adjust and feel the feelings that may naturally arise during this adjustment period, whether it be stress, sadness, confusion, and so forth. Let them know that it is okay, that you are adjusting too and, although their experience of the holidays will be different, they can also be just as joyous as they remember, if not more so.
Once you and your co-parent are divorced or separated, your business becomes the children, so be professional with each other, put the kids first, and celebrate, whether it be by way of old traditions or new ones.
#3 Allow Space for the Growth of New Traditions
As mentioned above, use the opportunity of the upcoming holiday season to demonstrate to your children that divorce or separation does not have to be the end of their beloved holiday traditions but a chance to create new ones with each of their parents.
Whether you are celebrating with your children in a way you have always traditionally celebrated with them, or forming new traditions, the important thing is for each parent to give space to the other to do so. Respect that each co-parent will now be celebrating with the children in either new or traditional ways and encourage the children’s excitement and participation in both.
Again, the children are now your business, your co-parent is now your business partner. If you invest in developing the skills and schedules outlined above, you will set your children, as well as yourself, up for many joyous holiday seasons to come.
All of this said, we know we are all human and that all of the above may seem idealistic. We also know that co-parenting is hard, hard work, especially over the holidays. Remember that co-parenting classes are available for you and your co-parent and may prove to be useful in preparation for the holidays. Also, remember that our team at Solutions Based Family Law is always here to help you navigate this new season of life if you need us.
As the seasons greet all of us, we wish you, your co-parent, and your children great success and some very happy holidays.