Julie Scagell knows first hand what it’s like to co-parent during the holidays. With a “kids come first” mentality and a few other key guildelines, she shows you how to stay sane and even have fun while co-parenting this season.
The holidays are a stressful time, especially for divorced or separated families. It is easier said than done, but attempt to take emotion out of the situation during this time. No matter what you have going on, a “kids come first” mentality is the key to success. And while the holidays are challenging, especially if it is your first holiday apart, it is possible with the following helpful tips:
Have a plan. It is no secret that communication is key for divorced parents. This is particularly important during the holidays. My ex and I discussed our holiday schedule during our divorce and we stick to that schedule as much as possible all these years later. Not only does it save frustration and chaos during an already hectic season, it helps set expectations for everyone involved, especially our kids.
Be flexible. With that said, times do change. Eventually you and/or your ex will remarry and with that will come new traditions and family members to consider. Your children will grow and their needs will change. Try to go with the flow as much as possible while still ensuring your family’s needs are being met. Your children will learn to compromise and that accommodating others can go a long way. And, if you can, keep up some special traditions, just for your kids.
Don’t overdo presents. It’s common to want to shower your kids with gifts, especially when the guilt of divorce creeps in. Everyone knows it’s not the right answer, but it can be easy to do during the holidays. Instead of buying your kids double the meaningless stuff, create a gift list with your ex and stick to it. VProudTV discusses this, and other helpful tips for women (and men!), in a video about co-parenting through the holidays work VProud’s Guide to Co-Parenting During the Holidays.
Save the tears. Even if you have the best possible post-divorce outcome, dropping your kids off with their other family doesn’t get easier, especially this time of year. My children spend every Christmas Eve with their father and every year I spend most of that day either trying not to cry or crying hysterically. It’s OK to cry, but as much as possible, don’t cry in front of your kids. The holidays should be a time of joy and excitement for them. The last thing they need is to spend the day feeling guilty that you are upset.
Make sure other family members are on board. The last thing anyone needs is others chiming in about your agreed upon schedule. Understandably, it is difficult for your family members to adjust to a new schedule during the holidays. Long standing traditions may need to be adjusted to accommodate split time and it can be frustrating for all parties. However, you as parents have agreed to what is best for your children. If others are creating drama, ask them to please respect the decisions you have made and remind them you are doing the best you can with your new situation. If all else fails, I’ve found grabbing a glass of wine, walking into another room and screaming into a pillow also works.
Don’t over schedule your kids. It’s easy when you have your kids to try to squeeze as much as possible into the time you have. The holiday season is a particularly easy time to overschedule with parties, family celebrations, outdoor activities, and concerts. Your ex is likely doing the same thing. Anyone knows kids (and adults) who are overscheduled and sleep deprived will eventually become cranky and short tempered. Sometimes a night in snuggled on the couch with a movie and popcorn can be just as fun. Kids will remember the feeling you create during the holidays, not the 17 holiday parties you dragged them to.
It’s difficult, but also important, to remember your ex is likely struggling sharing time during the holidays as much as you are. Be empathetic to everyone’s situation and enjoy the time you do have together as a family. Time is precious; you never know how much you have, so make it count, regardless of your family structure.
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