When co-parenting, it’s in the spirit of the season to focus on your children. It’s about making the children’s memories—not yours. No one wants their children to be anxious, depressed or in dread of what are supposed to be the most magical and fun days of a kid’s year. And a quick survey of internet communities and conversations turns up scores of former children whose parents turned holidays into a toxic battlefield that are now adults who hate or even fear those same holidays.
Talk to the other parent before making plans that affect everyone. If you don’t have an agreed-upon holiday plan or schedule, it’s best to make one as far ahead of the events themselves as you possibly can. Don’t forget to communicate with the other parent about presents either—it could be really confusing and maybe even hurtful if you both get the same thing for your child.
Treat your children with respect.
Do not ask your children where they would rather be. What an awful choice for a kid to have to even consider making! There is no way for a child to do this without feeling bad. Your legal agreements should have guidelines all hammered out for the holidays. Using them and following them keeps it off your children’s shoulders and helps the parents know what to expect each year.
Try not to change what you don’t have to. Children thrive on consistency and predictability. It makes them feel safer and more valued. They notice that your love for them isn’t something that has changed if they see their favorite things between yourself and them haven’t changed either. However, if you can see that keeping an old tradition might hurt for them this year, it is important that you start a new tradition. The overriding goal is to help them feel safe and like nothing is missing. If continuing an old tradition will only point out what’s changed, it’s a good time to create a new tradition to take its place. Just making it a fun one will go a long way.
Make sure you safeguard some downtime for them as well. Even if nothing changed from year to year, the holidays can be as exhausting as they are exhilarating, and children are not immune to this. Too much fun is a real thing! That is even more true when you are all, as a family, navigating new or uncertain territory.
Treat the other parent with respect.
When co-parenting, try not to get into an argument with them. De-escalating a situation with a little humor or an apology can go a long way.
Offering an alternate night or weekend can also help you both reach a place of compromise. Even though your legal agreements will probably outline things clearly, it won’t hurt for you to offer a little extra if you feel it would be helpful towards maintaining a healthy atmosphere and working relationship.
Time isn’t the only thing you can offer. Little tokens of inclusion can be helpful too. Offering pictures from an event they wished they could be at can help show that you’re a co-parent and not an enemy which can help create an overall pleasant and secure environment for your children’s holidays and memories.
If you are introducing a new significant other, think about the most appropriate time and place for that to happen. For example, more private, parents-only spaces like meetings with your children’s teachers are, unsurprisingly, not a great venue for this—but more public events like a pageant are much more comfortable. It would also be courteous to let the other parent know that a significant other is coming before the event itself. Conversely, it’s good and reasonable to be gracious about the other parent’s choice to bring a significant other to such public events.
Treat yourself with respect.
Make sure you get some downtime yourself. There’s going to be a lot of fun and a lot of difficulties. That’s always true for adults during the holidays, but if it’s your first time parenting separately then that’s going to be even truer. The highs will be high and the lows will be low. The new parenting territory will be new and a challenge. Sometimes you’re going to be exhausted. Create some time and space for yourself to process it all and to rest and recover.
Create, maintain and use your own support system. You will be sharing your children this year. Sometimes they won’t be with you, and that can really hurt. It’s okay to lean on friends and family or even to create new traditions to help you cope with the ones you’ll be missing. Just as much as your children deserve special care and attention in a time of change, you do too. And remember: don’t forget to put on your own oxygen mask.
To learn more about co-parenting during the holidays or to consult with one of our attorneys, call the Flores Harbour Law Office today for a private consultation (940) 387-3909.