Co-parenting is tough, but even more so during the holidays. Both parents want to have the kids on the “big” holidays, which means that someone ends up feeling short-changed. Who gets the kids for Thanksgiving? Who gets to wake up with the kids on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought for everyone?
The co-parenting conundrum gets more complicated when the parents don’t exactly get along, or don’t agree on how to co-parent. Instead of smooth transitions between houses, the hand-off is tense or downright hostile. No matter how much cheer you have in your heart during the holidays, a contentious “switch” is guaranteed to make you bitter about your situation.
Then there is the grief that comes with not having your child on a holiday. It just doesn’t feel “right.” Your image of what the holiday “should be” includes having your children by your side, sharing every minute of that special day. Unfortunately, you have to share. And it sucks. A lot.
So how can us co-parents not only survive, but celebrate the holidays this season?
Celebrate with your ex if you can…
- I know this isn’t remotely possible for many people, but if it is possible it should be explored. Chances are you and your ex both love your children deeply, and want to share every holiday with them. If you can get along well enough to have a shared Trick-Or-Treating adventure, Thanksgiving table, and/or Christmas Eve or Morning experience, you should go for it! Your kids will benefit from seeing you collaborate and be kind to one another (especially if it is something they don’t see often).
Keep it about the kids…
- The holidays are a time of tremendous excitement for kids. Try to stay positive and enjoy some fun, family-friendly activities while the kids are with you. Avoid being negative about the situation, or voicing your frustration in front of your children. Your kids do not need to feel the tension between you and your ex, and you have the power to shield them from it when they are with you. As they get older they will appreciate that you do not disparage your ex in front of them, even if your ex is not as courteous to you.
Make new traditions…
- Now is a GREAT time to create some new family traditions! Maybe throw a Halloween Party to celebrate Halloween, or hit a theme park on Thanksgiving to avoid crowds. Perhaps select another day to celebrate Christmas, or celebrate “Christmas Week” instead of just one day. Many co-parents split Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but that is not always possible or practical. Ultimately, it isn’t the day that is important. The kids just want a holiday with you, and they don’t care which day you celebrate the holiday. While this may be tough for you to handle, the kids will likely adapt quite well. Be open to new things, and set a positive example for your children as you experiment.
Don’t over compensate…
- You may be tempted to “outdo” your ex with the expense or number of presents. Don’t do it! Your bank account will rebel, and your kids will get spoiled. They don’t need more presents to make up for the time they aren’t with you. Keep this in perspective, because many co-parents fall into this trap!
Remember that co-parenting is all about quality time and not quantity of time. You can make wonderful memories in a few hours, or get caught up in the drama and miss those precious opportunities. The season is just starting, so you have plenty of time to get creative and draft action plans!
Stay strong– you got this! 🙂 🙂 🙂