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The holiday season can be stressful for everyone, with gifts to buy, meals to plan, and decorations to hang. But for families with shared custody situations, the stress can be magnified.
Whether this is your first holiday season co-parenting, or you’ve been doing this a while, taking some time to plan for a successful season while co-parenting is essential to getting through to next year with your sanity intact.
Here are 6 tips for co-parenting during the holiday season:
Make a Plan
Your parenting agreement should include a specific schedule for holidays. This can be very helpful when it comes to planning what your holidays will look like.
However, it’s important to realize that what worked when your children were young and you first made your parenting plan may not work as they get older. You and your child’s other parent should be prepared to be flexible from time to time in order to accommodate planned travel and other events as your child grows.
If you don’t yet have a parenting plan, it’s crucial to get down in writing what the schedule will be, even just for this holiday season.
Don’t assume that, just because you always have your children on certain days, that that schedule will hold for holidays; in reality, most split families have different visitation agreements to accommodate major holidays.
Do your best to be flexible when negotiating holiday time with your ex, but also be willing to dig in and preserve your parenting time when necessary. If you and your ex can’t come to an agreement on your own, you may need to get an attorney involved to help.
Start New Traditions
Holiday celebrations can be rough for separated families, especially if you and your children are very accustomed to certain elements of the celebration.
But, rather than focusing on everything you have lost about the holiday, turn your attention to what you can start new.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to hold off decorating the house until the first of December, and celebrate with a day full of holiday music and hot chocolate. Or, you want to spend an entire Saturday in your pajamas watching movies.
Whatever it is – even pizza on Christmas night instead of a fancy dinner – jump in with both feet and make it fun for your children. Get their input, too, when deciding what new elements of celebration to add.
Understand Things Are Different
All the new traditions and happy times in the world can’t change the fact that your holidays are different now. And, even if your kids are used to split celebrations, hurt feelings and sadness can still rear their head.
It’s important to acknowledge and understand that split holidays are rough on everyone, and your children deserve to feel their feelings.
Don’t just try to distract your children from their feelings in an attempt to make them go away. Acknowledge to your children that their feelings are valid, and help them work through ways they can cope with those feelings.
Don’t Try to Buy Love
Holidays for separated parents, especially those new to co-parenting during the holidays, can easily become a game of one-upping.
You want your children to enjoy the holiday they spend with you, and it’s difficult to feel they’ll enjoy it if they don’t get bigger and better presents than they do at the other parent’s house, right? Wrong!
While it can be tempting to feel that you need to buy your children’s happiness during the holiday season, it may only lead to animosity between you and your ex.
Rather than going hog-wild in the toy aisle, come up with a reasonable budget for gift-giving, and focus your holiday celebrations instead on the time you’ll spend with your kids. Make memories with them instead, and avoid an overflowing house and maxed-out credit cards.
Co-parenting means not everyone gets what they want all the time, especially when it comes to time with your kids.
Being willing to be flexible to accommodate reasonable requests from your ex regarding parenting time, such as a request to trade off time so your kids can visit relatives, is an important part of a successful co-parenting relationship. And modeling this give-and-take to your children helps them see and develop those skills for themselves, serving them down the line.
The ability to compromise when your ex makes a request builds goodwill down the line in the event that you need them to accommodate a request you may have.
Take Care of Yourself
The holidays are a stressful time under the best conditions, and the emotion surrounding the season can be heightened if you’re new to dealing with sharing time with your kids.
Do your best to take care of yourself – get enough sleep, eat well, and take some time for yourself – even when you’re caring for your kids. Your mood and enjoyment of the holidays will thank you for it.
And, when you don’t have your children, find ways to keep yourself occupied so you aren’t tempted to wallow and bring yourself down.
Experienced Divorce Lawyer in Washington, DC
Co-parenting is difficult under the best of circumstances, but it can be even more difficult during times of great stress such as the holidays. If you’re struggling to co-parent with your ex, or you’re just beginning the divorce process, our Washington, DC, divorce lawyer can help. Schedule a consultation today!