How to Handle the Holidays with Your Co-Parent
Ah, the holiday season! So much to enjoy and be grateful for: your children, family, friends, joyful gatherings, festive decorations…and your co-parent.
What? Why are you laughing?
If being grateful for your co-parent seems a stretch during this time of the year, then perhaps you should consider some of the following strategies.
Make a Holiday Calendar, and Be Willing to Be Flexible
Parenting time transitions during the holidays can be particularly challenging. There are multiple school breaks, holiday parenting time, and regular parenting time which all need to be considered. The easiest way to keep track of it all is to create a shared calendar that you as co-parents can review and reference to keep everything on track. I suggest setting up a shared Google account – it’s so much easier than transferring paper calendars back and forth!
While the calendar will help to make sure everyone is on the same page, do keep in mind that it is a season of giving and compassion. So, when your co-parent reaches out and asks for an additional two hours on Christmas Eve because they had some family come to town unexpectedly, BE FLEXIBLE! Unless you have something concrete scheduled (like tickets for a show, for example), demonstrate the spirit of the season and grant the request. Or, make a counteroffer that you can live with while still at least partially accommodating the request.
Plan Your Gift-Giving to the Children
Too often I see holiday gift-giving used as a way to “one-up” the other co-parent. Gifts should not be used to buy your children’s loyalty and love. Instead, ask the kids for one gift wish list that you and your co-parent can share and mutually decide who will by which items. If either parent wants to make a purchase that is off-list or more expensive than the norm, be sure to discuss beforehand so the other parent isn’t caught off guard.
I once had a client purchase a go-cart/dune buggy for his children for Christmas without any discussion with his co-parent in advance. I’m sure you can imagine how much that impacted the holiday season for everyone, including the children. Dad felt like a super-star, while Mom was left fuming and dealing with whiny kids when they came to her house because they could no longer ride the dune buggy. And all the gifts Mom gave the children paled in comparison. Imagine if instead he had discussed the gift idea beforehand – perhaps they could have shared the cost and given the gift jointly so it could be used at both homes. (Not to mention having the ability to jointly discuss safety guidelines, etc.)
Set Expectations with Family Members
Many of your family members will need to have expectations established to make sure they are in line with yours. Remind them of your gift-giving guidelines to ensure they don’t buy items that will create loyalty conflicts between their homes. Also, “surprise” visits or excursions aren’t really ideal with shared parenting time and can put a strain on everyone involved. Let family know in advance when you’ll have time with the kids. And remind all visitors that unkind comments made when the children are around about your co-parent or the “inconvenient” holiday schedule are simply not okay.
So, work together to truly make this the “most wonderful time of the year”! With some planning and some compassion, you can make the holidays more pleasant, and hopefully the mutual cooperation will allow you to be grateful for having a reasonable co-parent.
You can learn even more co-parenting strategies and skills with our co-parenting coaching services. Give us a call at 877-552-4017 to learn more!