The final quarter of the year is here, which means all the holidays are on the way. Halloween. Thanksgiving. Hanukkah. Christmas. Kwanzaa. New Years. And any other major holiday you may celebrate between now and January 1, 2019.
Holidays can be fraught for divorced couples. Both parents can get pretty emotional about the significance of certain observances. Kids can get pretty emotional too. And if a co-parenting plan is going to fall apart, it always seems to do so right around this time of the year.
Here are some strategies for staying sane, keeping your kids happy, and avoiding blow-ups with your ex.
Don’t call the sitter, call the ex.
This is good advice at any time of the year. But endless rounds of holiday parties and shopping trips may mean needing more help with the kids than usual. Why not turn to the other parent?
Calling the other parent first can help diffuse tension as long as you word your requests right. Don’t say, “Can you take Joey tonight?” Say, “I’ve got a Christmas party in a week or so and I thought you’d appreciate a little extra time with Joey, if you’re available.”
Wording can make all the difference between making your ex feel taken advantage of and making your ex feel like they’re gaining something. And doing it just this way shows you are still interested in making sure your ex and your children have a great relationship.
Try to scale back your expectations.
High holiday expectations can bring out the worst in anyone. Keep in mind the perfect holiday is unattainable, because perfection is unattainable. Shoot for having a good holiday season instead.
Keeping your sense of humor and equanimity can go a long way to reducing holiday stress. Is it really a huge deal for your spouse to be the one to stand in the super long Santa Claus line, even though you’d envisioned being there for that photo shoot? Is it worth fighting over? Or is it better to just let go and let your kids enjoy Santa time regardless of who brings them to the mall?
Use as many tools as you need to in order to keep the schedule straight.
Google calendars. Reminders on your phone. Whatever you need to set up? Set it up.
A big source of contention is busy schedules that cause parents to forget parenting time obligations, forget verbal agreements, even forget which one of you was supposed to buy the bike and which the dollhouse. Make sure you’re writing down every agreement you make with your ex so you don’t drop the ball.
This is also a great time to double check what your co-parenting plan says about the holidays. Some co-parenting plans can get confusing! Don’t rely on memory, especially if you’re alternating holidays. You might forget whether it’s your year for Thanksgiving or your ex’s. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of that holiday.
Remember, communication is key. Share your holiday plans with your spouse and discuss them so you aren’t tripping over one another. You might be amazed at how easy co-parenting during the holidays can be if you keep the lines of communication open.
See also: How to Create a Solid Parenting Plan.
Let the kid’s enjoyment come first.
It may be a devastating blow to hear your child wants to spend a holiday at the ex’s house because the party is better, or because all the cousins will be over. Sometimes this will happen regardless of what the parenting plan says, and at that point you have to make a decision.
However hurt you may be feeling, being a parent who can put your child first, allowing him or her to build the best holiday memories they can, can strengthen your relationship with that child for the rest of the year. Your son or daughter only gets to be a child during the holidays for so long. You might wanna give them this one.
Remember, you can always do your traditions on a different day. You always have hot chocolate on Christmas afternoon before running out to play in the snow? Maybe you can do it on Christmas Eve, December 23rd, or December 26th. The time spent together is more important than the date it happened.
Keep other relatives or friends in mind too, people who might have a vested interest in the child, and those who your child might want to see. They might not have legal standing to see your child, but it might be good for them to do so all the same.
Just don’t put your kids on the spot. If they spontaneously ask you to spend the holiday with the ex, consider allowing it. Otherwise, stick to the parenting plan as written so the child doesn’t end up struggling with divided loyalties.
Don’t let the holidays drive you back into court!
We often see a rash of people seeking to modify parenting time and child support agreements in January and February, in part because of bad blood getting stirred up in the holiday season. Nobody wants to keep going back to court, so try your best to avoid this scenario.
Of course, if court is unavoidable you need a good family law attorney by your side. If you’re having trouble, either during the holidays or after, don’t forget to call the law offices of Sadek and Cooper for help. We are ready to defend your rights.