For many divorced parents, the idea of successfully co-parenting during the holidays seems like as much of a fantasy as an elf-run toy factory at the North Pole. Do not despair though–it is not a fantasy. It is, in fact, possible to successfully interact with your co-parent and thoroughly enjoy the holidays with your children.
If you are one of the lucky ones, a cooperative and mutually respectful co-parenting plan may already be in effect. However, if you are like the majority of America’s restructured families, it may take some effort.
Start by reminding yourself that while your romantic relationship has ended, you and your ex-partner remain closely bound together as co-parents. Your family structure has changed in many ways, but the reality is that you are still a family. Most families face challenges and overcome disputes, despite their differences. Strive to achieve that for your restructured family.
Here are ten tips to maximize the benefits of co-parenting during the holidays:
Remember, two parents are better than one
It is well proven that children are far better adjusted when they maintain a close relationship with both their parents. It can also be better for the parents. Despite the need for coordinated efforts, it is good to remember that we usually benefit from a partnership in raising and caring for our children. Parenting is a big job that can be both rewarding and exhausting. Learning to share the experience can both lessen the burden and increase your enjoyment of your parenting time.
Plan for success
Plan ahead to avoid conflicts. That may mean being a little less spontaneous with your plans. Actually coordinate with your co-parent to organize a holiday schedule that works for both of you and satisfies the needs of the kids. Then, do your part to stick to the schedule. When planning, leave some wiggle room to allow for some holiday spontaneity. Make sure that each of you gets some time to do what you most enjoy with the kids.
Negotiate a truce if necessary
If you cannot put all the anger and hostility behind you, consider a short-term holiday truce. Even warring nations manage to agree to holiday cease-fires. You can reach such an agreement for the benefit of your family. Be conscious of the issues that trigger conflict and do your best to avoid them. Start by convincing yourself that not every issue has to be fought out
Seek common ground
At some point, you and your co-parent likely shared some common interests, priorities, and goals. That is probably still true, even though you may now be more focused on your differences. Take the time to think about the ways you share common interests and goals for your children, and make them the priority.
Be courteous to and respectful of each other
It may mean changing some old habits or behaviors, but showing some simple courtesies and a reasonable level of respect for each other can go a long way in building a more congenial co-parent relationship. It is also excellent role-modeling for your children and will take pressure off of them to be peacekeepers.
Show kindness and generosity
Help your children make or select holiday gifts for their other parent. Keep it genuine and keep it personal from the kids. It teaches your children the life lesson of thoughtful giving. You will likely have the added benefit of the appreciation of your co-parent as well.
Compromise is not a bad word
Of course, you want to maintain your basic values, but compromise can be a very good thing. Compromise is at the root of being functional in most of our daily lives. It’s where we find the common ground on which we can peacefully coexist with others. Being willing to compromise to create more harmony in the lives of your children is a huge gift to your family, especially during the holidays.
Consider sharing some of your holiday traditions
If you can manage to keep the peace while still under one roof, consider sharing one or more of the holiday traditions you enjoyed as a family with your children and co-parent. If this feels nearly impossible, try a community event where there would be less personal contact with your ex, like a school concert, a church service, or a visit to Santa for photos. Having both parents together with them at the same time is hugely important to the children of divorce. You do not want to send a message of reconciliation, (unless that is actually what is happening,) but you do want to show mutual love for your children.
Search for solutions
Don’t offhandedly say no to everything your co-parent wants or asks for. Be proactive in finding ways for both you and your co-parent to make the most of your holiday time with the children. If traffic causes delays in pick-up times, stay flexible. If special opportunities suddenly arise, do your best to take advantage of them. If you simply cannot accommodate a request by your co-parent, try to offer an alternative solution instead.
Don’t subject yourself or others to unreasonable expectations
All too often people will have storybook images and expectations of the holidays. Try to avoid this pitfall as it leads to disappointment. Every holiday comes with some degree of chaos. Embrace the unexpected and roll with it as best you can. Don’t expect things to be perfect. Focus on the positive and find the magic in the little moments that make the holidays memorable.
Happy Holidays from Divorce Lawyers for Men!
With a little planning and some compromise, you and your co-parent can successfully enjoy this festive season with your children. Divorce Lawyers for Men wishes you and your family happy holidays!
If you need a divorce attorney or want help with a parenting plan in Tacoma, Washington, contact us today.