The holiday season can create some of the best memories in life, especially for children. For families who are spending the holiday season separated for the first time, it can bring a significant amount of stress and fear for both the parents who are transitioning into the role of co-parents, as well as the children.
Recently separated families heading into their first holiday season of co-parenting will often find themselves heading quickly into situations they feel they will not be able to handle. The key to getting through your first holiday season as new co-parents is to work on your compromising skills.
Importance of Compromise
Compromise is by far the most important factor to creating a mutually respectful relationship for everyone involved. Compromise involves everyone, from recently separated parents to grandparents and other family members, and should be based solely on what is fundamentally best for the children involved. Always remember that the children are not the reason you and your ex don’t get along, so treat them with more respect than you would expect for yourself.
Successful co-parents understand that you cannot and will get everything you want. If you expect it to be that way, then you should step back, look at the reality of the scenario, and think again.
How To Co-Parent Well
Successful co-parents will consider all the trade-offs and cater to the best interests of the child. While may be difficult not to focus on your own hurt emotions during this transitional period, it is important to be aware of how your pain may be accidentally projected onto your children, and the decisions you make. Children pick up on and know more than you might think, so keep this in mind when interacting with your children in front of your ex, and when making decisions. If you are having trouble getting through these complicated times, following the below guidelines will help you to compromise for what is in the best interest of your child.
1. Communicate – put aside your relationship issues and communicate with each other respectfully. Make a plan. Don’t text, email, or direct message over social media. These types of communications can become misconstrued very easily, as context cannot be written into these types of conversations. Make the phone call- be brave, and be calm. Remember that the first rule of successful co-parenting is effective communication.
2. Make it an even split. Remember that it isn’t all about you. Holiday time is more about the children than any other time of the year, and managing the day down to the minute will make a massive difference in their lives. The best way to achieve all-round happiness is by breaking up holiday visits into halves. One parent may choose to have the children in the morning while the other has them for the afternoon/evening. If there are considerable distances of travel involved, you can compromise again, and have it so one parent gets them for one major holiday and the other parent for the next major holiday. The other key element to this is that if you can put aside your differences for a half an hour and have a family gift opening, this will add extra joy to your child’s day, and will be remembered.
3. Split the week. For co-parents who live a distance from each other, a week split is a great way to allow the children quality time with both parents. Children normally have quite a bit of time off around the holidays, so before it is too late, organize when you are going to split the time with your children.
4. Combine on gift giving. It’s very easy to make the mistake of not checking to see what your ex has bought for the children. When gift-giving time arrives, it can a letdown for the children if they receive two of the same present. Just communicate, and remember it is not a competition for your child’s affection. Don’t go overboard and spend no more combined than you would if you were still together.
It’s important to remember that children remember holidays with family for a lifetime. Any kind of argument or disruption can create bad memories for your children, and if you are instigator, that will create bad memories of you. Children, no matter how old they are, know more about what is going on than you think, and quickly pick up on negativity. Make it a positive experience for the children, and put aside any issues you have with each other as best as you can.