The holidays are stressful for everyone, but they can be particularly upsetting for parents going through a divorce. Trying to navigate co-parenting and child custody issues is difficult, especially when you want to protect your children from any anger or tension you might be experiencing with your spouse. If this is your first year to co-parent during the holidays, there are additional stresses to make this holiday season special for your child(ren). And if this is your 2nd, 3rd or 10th year of holiday co-parenting, you can still benefit from a few tips and tricks to help you reduce stress and conflict at this time of year.
The holidays are about making magical memories for your children - not about outdoing your ex-spouse. If this holiday season is your first as a divorced or divorcing parent, there are things you can do to minimize the stress and successfully co-parent during the holidays.
1. Be Flexible
Co-parenting during the holidays will be different for you and your children. Things cannot be the way they were before your divorce. Trying to pretend that nothing has changed and everything is the same as before will be stressful and undoubtedly fail. This year, be flexible with your parenting schedule and plans and prioritize what is best for your child.
2. Make A Schedule
You most likely have created a custody schedule - or have a court-ordered parenting schedule - that determines which parent has the children and when. Don't rely on memory: write down the holiday parenting plan so both parents have a copy of the holiday schedule. If they are old enough, give your children a copy of the schedule too. If something comes up and the calendar needs to be changed, such as an unexpected visit from out-of-town inlaws, negotiate a new arrangement that accommodates both parents and is good for the kids.
3. Plan Some Me Time
Parents with young children know that the holidays are all about the kids. If you're sharing your children during the holidays, you may have more alone time than in previous years. Plan some activities with your friends that would not have been possible in past years instead of being sad and alone when you aren’t with your children. Yes, you'll miss your children - but you can also enjoy some adult holiday activities.
4. Coordinate Gift Giving
Don't try to "win" your child's love by giving them expensive and "the best" gifts. Forbes magazine suggests working with your ex-spouse to agree on a Christmas gift budget. Decide who will gift what so that the children are happy at both parents’ celebrations and are secure in both parents’ love.
5. Put Your Children First
Talking calmly and rationally with your ex can be challenging if you've experienced a stressful, hurtful, or expensive divorce and child custody battle. You may need the help of your divorce attorney or a divorce counselor to help you work through the holidays. Stay focused on your children's needs. Feeling hurt is normal and nothing to be embarrassed about. Divorce is complicated and can be painful, even when it's amicable. Keeping your priorities straight and putting your kids' needs first will reduce your stress and your children's stress.
There is no single right way to co-parent during the holidays. Over time, parents learn what works best for their situation. Most important, when your children are with your co-parent during the holidays, you want them to feel safe and loved - not guilty and stressed. If co-parenting during holidays is causing conflict with your ex, ask for help from a skilled expert, such as a therapist, mediator, or your family lawyer.
An experienced family law and divorce lawyer can give you peace of mind, knowing that an expert is dealing with your legal issues and helping you navigate a stressful period of your life. There are many decisions to be made regarding the division of assets, alimony, child support, how to co-parent during the holidays and other legal issues that are decided in court.
If you are in Gwinnett County or surrounding areas, call Attorney Sharon Jackson. As an experienced Family Law attorney, she has effectively fought for the rights of parents and helped them protect their children’s future. Call Attorney Jackson today at (678) 436-3636 to schedule a consultation. You may also contact Attorney Sharon Jackson through our online form.