The holiday season is a wonderful time for your children to see how loved they are, but sometimes a complicated family situation can take away from the joy of the holidays. If you and your ex-partner are co-parenting this holiday season, there may be some issues that arrive. However, with these tips, you can avoid some of the hardships that co-parenting at the holidays can bring.
Prioritize Your Kids’ Experience
Almost 50% of marriages in the U.S. result in divorce or separation, so your family is far from the only one experiencing a co-parent situation during the holidays. Make sure that if it is your first holiday as co-parents instead of partners, your children understand that things will be a little different this year. However, you should try to include any of their favorite activities into the holiday season that you can, and prioritize making them feel the joy that the holiday season brings about.
Make a Plan…
Making a plan with your co-parent is key to keeping from feeling out of control during the holidays. Plan out what activities you will each do with your children. This means both planning for this year’s holiday season and future seasons. Maybe your children will spend Thanksgiving with you and Christmas with your co-parent and switch every year — establish this plan ahead of time so you don’t run into an issue with one of you ending up with Christmas two years in a row or vice versa. In addition, if you and your co-parent are civil, try to do at least one activity as a full family unit to show your kids that even if you are no longer married or together, you are still both there for them. This could be something as simple as taking your kids to a movie as a group and getting hot chocolate afterward. Sometimes the small memories are the ones that your kids will have for their entire lives.
Make sure you also talk about the sweets and treats that you will be giving your children during the holidays. Between Halloween candy and Christmas cookies, cavities can easily develop during the last few months of the year. This is probably why 40% of children get cavities before even starting kindergarten, so make sure that you and your co-parent are not giving your children too many treats that can lead to health issues down the line.
…But Be Ready to Deviate From the Plan
If something happens, you have to be flexible and able to compromise. Maybe your co-parent was not supposed to have the kids for Christmas this year, but they have a sick family member that might not be around for next year. This is obviously not something that you could have worked into your master plan, so try to be flexible with your co-parent. If your children didn’t get to have one last Christmas with a beloved grandparent, aunt, or uncle because of your unwillingness to compromise, they will probably not be happy down the road. Remember that the priority is not your holiday experience, but the holiday experience that your children are having.
Talk About Gifts
Make sure that you and your co-parent discuss what gifts you will get for your children so that you don’t end up getting the same thing for them. This will also make it easier if you have extended family members that also buy your children gifts. If you agree to buy, for example, three things off of your child’s wishlist, don’t end up buying five or six in an attempt to buy your children’s love, resulting in your co-parent not having anything to get for your children. Trying to buy your children’s love will not work, and it will hurt your co-parenting relationship.
Respect Your Feelings…
If you are feeling negative emotions because of the stress of co-parenting during the holidays, that is very natural. Between the stress of buying presents, loneliness at missing holiday events because your co-parent is taking your kids to them, and the fear of change, there are a lot of hard feelings that come about when you co-parent during the holiday season. Even if you are a mother who is part of the 51% of custody decisions in which both you and your co-parent agree you should be the custodial parent, that doesn’t mean that the time you have away from your children will feel any less sad.
… But Don’t Let Them Rule You
However, it’s important not to let these negative emotions overtake you. If you spend every night that your kids are away with your co-parent moping, then you aren’t doing yourself justice. You deserve to have a joyous and wonderful holiday season, even if you aren’t spending as much time as you wish you could with your children. When you know your kids will be with your co-parent, make plans with your friends to go see a movie or have a small party. Create holiday traditions with your chosen family: your friends. They will be there if you need to vent about co-parenting struggles and will help you laugh through the hard times.
Make sure that you are taking care of yourself by doing things that bring you joy and learning how to enjoy your alone time. Whether that means taking a bath or binge-watching Hallmark movies in your pajamas, you can find small ways to feel happy when your kids are with your co-parent. You are allowed to enjoy your alone time without feeling guilt; it does not mean that you love your kids less because you can enjoy your time without them.
At the end of the day, remember that you’re going through all this pain so your kids can have the best holiday season possible. When they grow up, they won’t remember the small details like the fact that you forgot to bring their gloves ice skating, they’ll remember the joy and magic that they still got to experience during the holidays. Co-parenting is never going to be a perfectly easy process, but as you get more used to working with your co-parent to help your kids have the best childhood they can, things will become easier.
How do you and your co-parent work together during the holidays? What is your favorite holiday tradition you do with your kids? Let us know below!