For some divorced or separated parents, arranging and organizing equal time with the children has been an easy and smooth ride while for others, and you know who you are, it has been and is still is proving to be an experience straight out of hell for various reasons.
If you are having trouble with co-parenting over the holidays, here are some tips for you:
• Instead of focusing on the time that the children will be away from you, focus instead on how you will be spending your time with them. Then make sure you have plans and some fun during the time you don't have the children. Don't make them choose which parent they want to be with and when - you are the adults here, sort it out for them.
• Choose not to fight in front of them. And I use the word "choose" because at the end of the day, that is what we do. Yes, this might be easier said than done but definitely, definitely not impossible. If you feel an argument brewing, catch yourself in time to make the decision not to rise to it. I promise you, with practice it becomes easier and easier and the fights become less and less and the little ones happier and happier and more secure and...you get the picture.
• If this is your first Christmas as a divorced or separated parent, then why not start your own family tradition that suits you and the children? Have your children help create the ceremony. You don't have to do things as you have always done them. New journey, new chapter and all that, so do what makes you all happy.
• I'm sure you've realised by now that once a parent, holidays are no longer about you, so if you want to have a good time, then plan your holidays more with the children in mind than what you want. Move your dates around if it means that the children get to have a peaceful holiday e.g. celebrate Christmas on 23rd or 27th if that's what it takes to have a wonderful Christmas. Who cares about the dates anyway - certainly not the children!
• If you have a parenting plan in place, then accept it as it stands. After all you played a part in putting it together so now put it into practice:-)
• Fight the urge to partake in the "Best Gift, Best Experience" competition. You do what you can and what is reasonable i.e. don't over indulge your little ones because you will only be setting high expectations for future holidays and risking losing your sanity at given times of the year, each year.
• You're very probably not going to like this but I'll say it anyway - do help your child buy a gift for the other parent. "Why?" I hear you ask. Well because you will be teaching your child about respect, grace and that it is ok to talk about and love his/her other parent no matter what has happened. The latter might sound obvious but you will be surprised how often children feel they cannot bring up the other parent in conversation in case they trigger something in you that will be upsetting.
So, seeing as you are now divorced or separated and that there are children involved, you will be co-parenting for years to come so you might as well do it right and properly for sanity's sake.
Who wants to be fighting every year, at the same time and for the same reasons?