The holidays are a time to celebrate joy, family and friends, and spending time together with your loved ones. They can be exciting and fun-filled occasions, but they can also be a time for stress or anxiety for parents who have separated or divorced recently. Especially when they are approaching their first holiday season as co-parents. Here is a list of suggestions that will help newly separated parents figure out how to make it through the holiday season with minimal stress, while making sure the children and both partners are happy.
1. Put the kids first during the holidays.
Your decisions as co-parents should be centered on the children’s experience. You have to make sure they have the best time without stress or feeling left out. If you are trying to fit in a lot of different holiday family celebrations in a short period of time, take a moment and put yourself in your child’s shoes. How would they feel with that many transitions, and how can they relax and spend quality time with their family?
According to Maurice Kennedy, an educator at Writinity and Last Minute Writing, “if you’re trying to do too much, you won’t be creating happy holiday memories for your children, just exhausting and confusing them.”
2. Make a co-parenting plan for the holidays beforehand.
We recommend that co-parents take some time together before the holidays. You need to figure out together the best way to spend time with the children during the holidays. Start this process a while in advance. Thus you will have time to reach an agreement if it isn’t all smooth sailing at first. Speak with your co-parent about the holiday traditions that are important for both of you to pass on to your children. Accept dropping certain activities that will create more stress for the children and the parents instead of happy holiday memories.
Once you’ve made a plan, be prepared for it to change. Your child’s needs will change and as co-parents you need to be flexible and understanding. Whether your child is very young and they need a nap, or much older and they want time with friends, consider what they want during the holidays, and not only what you think they want.
3. Be flexible co-parents.
As mentioned in the previous point, flexibility is key. For a smooth co-parenting experience during holidays, you both have to go into it with a certain degree of flexibility. Anything might happen, including your child falling ill, or a visit from the in-laws.
Wendy Darling, a lifestyle blogger at Draft Beyond and Research Papers UK, shares with co-parents her holiday advice to “be prepared to make some gestures of good faith to make the holiday co-parenting process easier for everyone, especially your children.”
4. Speak with your co-parent about holiday gifts in advance.
Holidays can be an excessive period of gift-giving, especially if both co-parents don’t speak to each other. Or worse, try to outdo each other. Have a conversation in advance about what you want for your children. Discuss the number of gifts, what the spending limit is, and what’s off-limits during the holidays (whether it’s an electronic item or something that doesn’t align with your values). Remember to share these requirements with all the in-laws or family members that might be giving your children gifts. The sooner you decide on these rules, the easier it will be.
It’s much easier for co-parents to agree on a holiday gift-giving plan and limits than to constantly try to beat each other in some sort of present contest. This will also create entitlement in your child and possible long-term issues, so avoid this situation at all costs.
5. Take time for yourself.
The holidays can be an overwhelming time for everyone, whether you’re co-parenting or not. Beyond the needs of your family, take some time for care for yourself, on a physical and emotional level. The happier and more balanced you can be, the easier it will be to look after your children during this holiday season. If you’re able to speak with your co-parent about this situation, encourage them to take time for themselves as well. Remind them that this is for the sake of the children.
Co-parents should never hesitate to get help or guidance from a therapist or mediator. Even a divorce coach may be considered, especially if you foresee conflict during the upcoming holiday season. Having a third person involved can help the discussions on these top suggestions on track and to come up with constructive solutions and plans. The holidays are an exciting time, especially for children. So, it’s important that all families make sure they navigate this time without stress for maximum happiness.