With the holidays approaching, it’s time to make plans with family and loved ones. For divorced parents, some of these preparations can be stressful. Especially when parents have to balance the conflicting demands of family gatherings with placement time schedules. The good news is that by working together, parents can minimize stress and enjoy the season with their kids. Here are 10 ways to succeed at co-parenting during the holidays this year.
1. Communicate Sooner Rather Than Later
One of the best ways to avoid conflict with your ex about your kids’ holiday schedule is to communicate beforehand. If you have a special family event coming up during your ex’s placement time and want to switch days, call and ask with plenty of notice. If the two of you want to share Thanksgiving Day, work out the details well in advance. That way you can avoid assumptions about how the day will go, and you can avoid mealtimes being delayed at the last minute. When you take the time to talk to one another about the holidays before they happen, you show respect for one another’s time and support each other’s relationship with your kids.
2. Be Flexible (If Possible)
Another way to practice effective co-parenting is by being flexible with your ex when it comes to holiday planning. If you don’t have plans, accommodating your ex’s request to adjust the placement schedule so they can have the kids for a special holiday occasion is in everyone’s best interest. You can trade days or get extra hours with your children later, and they can enjoy a seasonal event with their other parents.
3. Create New Gift Traditions
Younger children enjoy giving their parents gifts and usually don’t have the funds to buy anything. If your family gives gifts for the holidays, you and your ex could start a new tradition of helping the kids pick out a present for the other parent. Your kids could shop with you and select something to give the other parent either from them or both of you. If you want to keep things simple, you could also help your children make a unique craft or drawing for their other parent. Your kids will appreciate the positive gesture between you and enjoy being part of family giving.
4. Stay Positive or at Least Neutral
Even when you start with the best intentions, there may be times when you and your ex frustrate one another. The stress of holiday planning can lead to miscommunications, unpleasant comments, and irritability. As always, when your kids are present, keep your tone positive or at least neutral when engaging with each other.
5. Don’t Disrupt One Another’s Plans
There can be a lot of last-minute opportunities to do exciting things during the holidays. Your kids may be scheduled to go with your ex to their grandparents’ house when a chance to ice skate and see a spectacular Christmas light display comes up. The ice skating and lights will be there tomorrow. Don’t interfere with your ex’s previously scheduled plans by telling your kids about exciting alternatives.
6. Maintain Boundaries
The holidays bring families and friends together, and your kids may end up hearing a little more than they should about their other parents when relatives get together. If you hear your loved ones discussing the divorce or your ex around your kids, maintain healthy boundaries, and immediately redirect the conversation.
7. Resolve Your Differences Privately
You and your ex probably won’t agree on everything, no matter how hard you try to work together. For instance, your ex may want the kids on Christmas Eve for an event even though it’s your year and you already made plans with your family. There may be no way you are going to agree to trade placement days in this situation. Whatever the circumstance, agree to work it out away from the kids and in private.
8. Divide and Conquer
When it comes to holiday gift-giving, parents can unwittingly end up competing with one another to give the best gifts. Effective co-parents communicate about holiday presents and work out who is buying which gift. Parents can also agree to split the costs of pricier items. If your child wants something with multiple accessories, you could buy some, and your ex could buy others. That way, the gift’s components are from both of you.
9. Remember You are Setting an Example
Parents are their children’s first and most important role models. Kids look at how their parents treat one another as an example of how to engage with others. When children see parents cooperating and showing one another respect, they are learning from them. The holidays are a time when parents can showcase positive, cooperative, and respectful behavior toward one another.
10. Keep up Your Self-Care
Parents can help each other during the holidays by taking care of themselves. When you are not attending to your own needs, it’s easier to become stressed and irritable with others. Get the rest, nutrition, and exercise your body requires, and take time for adequate self-care. When you feel your best, you can be more present for your kids and in a better place to effectively co-parent.
Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law has extensive experience helping parents connect with the right co-parenting resources.