Being in a co-parenting situation following a divorce or child custody dispute can be stressful at the best of times, but the holidays can create an additional level of anxiety. Questions will often arise as to where the children should spend a particular holiday, and you may find yourself pulled in various directions by different family members. Trying to keep everyone happy often proves to be an impossible task. Nevertheless, there are some practices you can set up with your co-parent that will help things run more smoothly and ensure the best possible holiday experience for your children.
The first thing to realize is that it is not all about you. Yes, you may have legitimate grievances with regards to your co-parent, but now is not the time to air those concerns or dwell on what happened years ago. Successful co-parenting is going to require that you both “act like grownups” and put the past aside in the interests of your children and their happiness. From a personal standpoint, dwelling on anger and resentment is not healthy for you too. However, if you are both willing to work together and compromise, there is no reason that you cannot have a joyous holiday season.
One possible alternative that works for many families is to simply alternate holidays. For example, if dad has the kids for Christmas, then mom will have them for New Year’s Eve/Day. The following year these holidays will flip, and each parent will have the children on a different day. Another possibility is to split the holiday. Perhaps mom will have the children for lunch on Thanksgiving Day and then take them to dad’s house in the evening to spend time with their father. It is important to remember that flexibility is critical; inevitably, there will be last-minute changes and unforeseen issues that crop up. While it may be tempting to get angry and lash out at your co-parent, you should resist that urge and keep the focus squarely on your children and what is best for them.
In some families, you may be fortunate enough to maintain reasonably good relations with your co-parent. In cases such as this, you might want to consider spending the entire holiday together as an extended family. The benefit of this approach is that you can spend the whole day with your children without taking the time to drive them from one parent’s house to the other. It is a more efficient process and provides greater stability for the kids. Of course, you should only do this if you are prepared to bite your tongue if necessary and avoid getting into any arguments or disagreements with your co-parent, as that is likely to ruin what should be a special day for everyone. Co-parenting is never easy, but with a little willingness to compromise, you should be able to enjoy a pleasant holiday with your family and create positive memories for your children that will last a lifetime.