The holidays are quickly approaching, and while for most people it is one of the best times of the year, for those who are co-parenting it can create some challenges. Navigating the holidays while also co-parenting can be difficult and may leave you with feelings of anxiety or stress concerning the season as a whole. You want to be able to enjoy the holidays, and also ensure that your family enjoys it as well. Here are some helpful tips that can help you and your children have a wonderful holiday.
The Kids Are The Priority
The most important thing to keep in mind during the holidays is that the children should come before anything else. When you are co-parenting, there is always the worry that your kids are not going to have the same experiences as they would if you were still with their other parent, and the holidays are an important time to keep this in mind.
For example, when you are co-parenting your children may have to squeeze 3-4 family gatherings into one day, half of which are with you and the other half with their other parent. This is hard on you, because for some of your gatherings you may not get to bring your children, or you’ll have to spend a portion of it alone, but consider how this is going to impact your child.
When kids are taken from house to house to say hello, have some food, then move on to the next family member’s home they are getting very little time to actually enjoy their family. Additionally, this takes away from their overall experience on the holiday. Instead of making memories with loved ones, your kids might have an exhausting and chaotic experience.
Over time, this can create resentment and distaste for the holiday itself, which is the last thing that you want. This same rule applies to other aspects of their holiday experience. When you are making plans and scheduling the day, it is very important to put their best interest first. How exactly you go about this will depend on your specific situation as well as the relationship you have with the other parent, but you both should prioritize compromises that benefit your children most.
It can be very difficult to sacrifice parts of the holidays that you love and cherish in order to appease everyone in the situation, however, it is also important to make sure that you are being flexible. As much as you want to spend time with your kids on Thanksgiving or Christmas, so does their other parent and their family members.
It is also important to be flexible if everything does not go exactly as planned. Oftentimes things come up, and you may have to rearrange your schedule in order to ensure that everyone still has a good time. For example, perhaps their other parent’s parents come into town unexpectedly, and they want to see your children. Creating extra time for your kids to visit with them may take away from some of the time you were supposed to spend with them, but it is important that they don’t miss this opportunity to see their grandparents.
You may also have to be flexible about what is allowed when you are not around. While you may not agree with some of the rules or lack thereof that their other parents and their family allow when you are not around. However, you, unfortunately, cannot control what goes on when you aren’t there, and setting rules with your children before they leave you is only going to create tension.
When you are co-parenting, children can sometimes receive duplicate presents if there isn’t enough communication between both parents as well as extended family members. It is very easy for the holidays to become excessive, even in a home where parents are buying gifts together, but co-parenting can make it a lot easier for this to happen. This can especially be an issue when parents try to “outdo” each other when it comes to expense and quantity.
We all want to spoil our children, especially when we feel like there is something missing from their family dynamic. However it is also important to teach children good habits, and spending an excessive amount of money during the holidays can give them the wrong impression. It is a good idea to sit down with their other parent and discuss what you are going to purchase for your kids. Consistency is key in this scenario, so setting spending guidelines for each other can be very helpful as well.
Take Care of Yourself Too
While your children should be the priority during the holidays, don’t forget to also take care of yourself. This time of year can easily become overwhelming, from all of the planning to the financial burden of gifts and other holiday-related activities, so self-care is important. You want to pay attention to your physical and mental health at this time because the better care you take of yourself the better you will be able to take care of your children.
If you are co-parenting as the result of a divorce, you probably had a divorce lawyer help you establish all of the rules and expectations for each party. However, the use of a mediator doesn’t have to stop at the legal stage of the separation, and many co-parents benefit from help throughout the rest of their children’s lives. Utilizing a divorce coach or therapist, or even a close friend you both trust as a mediator can be extremely helpful for your own sanities as well as for your kid’s holiday experience.
The holidays can be a wonderful time of year, but they can also make the new adjustments you are going through seem even more difficult. You may have to spend some of your time away from your children, and that can be extremely stressful and sad to experience. If you are worried about these kinds of feelings, confide in a close family member or friend who will be at the event you are going to without your kids.
Having someone there who knows what you are going to do will make you feel more comfortable. You can also seek advice from a therapist about ways to cope with this adjustment and the absence of your kids during the holidays. Even if it is only for a few hours, you want to learn ways to enjoy the holidays for yourself even when the circumstances are not ideal.
Roni Davis is a writer, blogger, and legal assistant operating out of the greater Philadelphia area. She writes for a divorce mediation attorney