Co-Parenting Through the Holidays

coparenting through the holidays

When I first started this blog, I did a post on divorce. I teach a class called Co-Parenting for Resilience, which is a parenting class for people going through a divorce. Here is something I came across today about how to handle the holidays when you have gone through a divorce with children:

Co-parenting through the Holidays

The holidays are an exciting time that children and parents look forward to every year.  However, for families who have recently experienced divorce, the holidays can be a difficult time for a number of reasons.  For these families, many of their old family holiday traditions are changed dramatically, with routines being shifted, celebrations happening before or after the holiday date, and many emotions being stirred due to the multitude of changes.

The most important thing to remember during this time is not to get pulled into resentment and sadness; always think of your children and how you need to do what is best for them.  No matter what is going on between you and your co-parent, you must do the best you can to co-parent successfully through the holidays. And while it likely won’t be easy, it is definitely possible with a few helpful tips on how to make the holidays work:

  1. Don’t make your children decide who to spend the holidays with.
    It should not be left up to your children to decide how time with each parent will be split during the holidays.  Putting your children in the middle and letting them decide will only create discomfort for the entire family. You do not want to intensify your children’s loyalty conflicts. You and your co-parent should make the decision of how time will be split during the holidays.
  2. Create a holiday plan prior to the holidays.
    Co-parents should create a holiday schedule prior to the holidays to negotiate how the children will spend time with each parent. Every year may look a little bit different depending on what you and your co-parent agree on. It is important to have a conversation with your children about where they will be and when to help the transitions remain as smooth as possible.
  3. Be flexible and be willing to compromise.
    When creating a holiday plan, each co-parent will most likely need to comprise. You both won’t be able to spend the entire holiday season with your child so it is important to remember that it is in the best interest of your child to spend part of the holidays with both you and your co-parent. This may mean that one parent gets to have Thanksgiving but not Christmas one year but the opposite the next year. This might also mean that you can’t spend the holidays traveling like you had once planned. It is crucial to calmly negotiate the priorities of you and your co-parent and come to an agreement about the best plan for your children.
  4. Resist the urge to compete with your co-parent.
    Resist the urge to measure your worth as a parent in terms of what you can or cannot provide financially to your children. Don’t compete with your co-parent to see who will spend the most or find the best present for your child. Remember that you do not need to buy your children’s love. It may also be helpful to coordinate gifts with your co-parent to try to keep the number of gifts balanced and to keep from duplicating any gifts.
  5. Validate your children’s emotions.
    Your children will feel a range of emotions as they experience their first holiday season in two different homes. Let them know that it is okay to feel sadness or other negative emotions and be there for them. Don’t make your children feel guilty about spending time with your co-parent. If they miss your co-parent, allow them to call your co-parent during the holidays.
  6. Start New Traditions
    A divorce or separation doesn’t have to mean that all fun holiday traditions should be over. Instead, come up with new ones for your family to enjoy.  Allow your children to help create new traditions with each parent that will help adjust to the new family holiday season. When appropriate, old family traditions may also be continued.If you and your co-parent are able to keep your children as the priority and work to plan everything well in advance, it is entirely possible to begin new traditions with your children and avoid the normal stress of the holiday season.

Need more help? Co-parenting is hard. We’re here to help! Learn more about the Co-parenting for Resilience Program, part of the Extension mission of Oklahoma State University’s College of Human Sciences.



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