Co-parenting over the holidays. These four words can bring either a sense of joy or dread this season, or even both. But with the right planning in place, you can experience a harmonious Hanukkah, cohesive Christmas and no-drama New Year.
The holidays can be a magical time for everyone. Children have breaks from schools; families and friends gather for meals and multi-day celebrations; and emotions run hot. While the season brings joy and laughter for some, they can also be hard to manage – especially when co-parenting. Yes co-parenting has its challenges on a good day, but throw in the holidays and it takes on a whole new level.
To make sure your holidays remain special for you and your children, it’s important to have a plan. Here are 5 tips to help you survive the holidays and set your loved ones up for a season of success.
- Create a Parenting Plan
Since you and your spouse went through the formal divorce process, you likely have a parenting plan in place that also includes how the holidays are meant to be shared. If you feel that you need to make new arrangements this year and it is not your first time co-parenting during the holidays, do not save this for the last minute. A parenting plan is a legally-binding agreement and should be respectfully treated as such.
If you don’t have a parenting plan you may want to consider getting one. You can develop one informally if you are communicating well or you can have your attorney or mediator help create one for you. It’s a good idea for a parenting plan to have a system in place for how disputes should be handled if the situation arises, and a way in which parents can periodically review and make necessary changes to the plan.
The plan may also include other provisions or information intended to help both parents understand and abide by the shared responsibilities in raising the child or children. Once you have it in place and on autopilot, you won’t have to stress over everything. Try one if you don’t already have one. It can make your life a lot easier.
- Allow Flexibility
You’ve gone through a lot this year; trying to process divorce, finalize child support and navigate the co-parenting world – just to name a few. Add coronavirus to the mix, and you have yourself the perfect ending to a horrible year. COVID-19 has arisen many grey areas for families across the world, including parenting time schedules. Use your parenting plan as a tool to keep things focused, but while compromising might not be easy, it is an effective way to make things easier for your children, assuming they are only minor adjustments. For example, help yourself by giving your ex some wiggle room on logistics. A great rule of thumb is to plan at least 15 minutes of flex time around any child exchange. Depending on your location and the weather gets worse, you will need more flex time.
Consider having a civil conversation about what you both have in mind for the holidays and how time with the children can be shared with each of you and extended family members. Don’t wait until the last minute to begin the conversation. “The sooner the better” is in order to iron out any initial disagreements that could occur.
Try to cooperate with each other during this emotionally-charged season and do what is needed for both you and your ex so that you can both spend happy, quality time with your children.
- Stability is Key
Once you have made some logistical decisions, present a united front in telling the children together (if possible) what the plans are going to be. Make them feel that everything is worked out and it’s going to be a good holiday season because mom and dad have figured it out.
This will provide stability and comfort to your children. It will ease their anxiety and their concerns about mom and dad getting along during the holidays. Children think about holidays and how mom and dad are going to feel if they are alone. Give them peace of mind that everything will be okay even though you are no longer together.
- Tolerate Difficult Circumstances (New Partners)
Divorce can be a painful and draining process. Be kind to yourself while going through your divorce. Many medical and mental health professionals recommend treating divorce like grief. There is happiness on the other side of all the legal and emotional issues, and the chances of your children feeling that pain are highly likely. If you or your ex are in the process of separating, try to not make small matters an issue.
While the holidays can be a delicate time to test your tolerance, by doing so, you’ll look back without regret at handling these emotional issues maturely. Try to have an open discussion with each other about the role of a new significant other and how that will play in the lives of your children. Introducing a new partner is a big and important decision. Incorporating new partners into the family structure is delicate, especially during the holidays. With the help of an experienced family law attorney, you can receive sound advice on how to speak with your children so everyone involved is comfortable.
It’s important to remember to stay calm, the chances of your child remembering you losing your temper are high in the event that someone interferes with your plan. When something goes wrong, you can absolutely feel angry. The suggestion here is to try to have some patience, and focus on your child’s priorities.
- Show Yourself Some Love
The holidays can be hard even for those who are not recently divorced, so do not begrudge yourself some self-care. There is a chance that you will spend some time alone this holiday season, and with Covid-19 variants looming, you could end up alone more than you expected.
Try to make some plans for yourself that do not involve the kids, even if it is just to sit at home on your own, binge-watching TV shows with your favorite takeaway meal. A little time to yourself can do wonders for your mood and help you get through the holidays with a little less stress. As much as you might want to make the holidays perfect for your kids, you cannot forget yourself. The happier you are, the smoother the holiday season will be them, too.
The holidays are meant to be a special time for everyone involved. And remember, having patience while trying to execute the holiday co-parenting plan is crucial to maintaining everyone’s enjoyment of the holidays.
We hope with the help of these tips mentioned above, it can make way for you to navigate through your holidays in a seamless, appropriate and enjoyable manner.
For more information on Divorce, Parenting Time, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, Child Support and more, visit our website to talk to our experienced attorneys. With their in-depth knowledge and experience in Family Law, we’re sure to help you get through the holiday season together.