Coparenting During the Holidays: 3 Tips to Stay Merry
With the holidays just around the corner, it’s normal to be feeling any mix of emotions. For those of us with split families, you might be feeling anxious about upcoming festivities, especially if children are involved.
Whether this is your first or umpteenth holiday season since getting a divorce, you may already be wondering how to keep things merry and bright as we cruise toward the New Year. Rest assured that many parents are in the same boat as you. While every family is unique, there are tips you can practice to help the holidays unfold as smoothly as possible this year.
3 Coparenting Tips to Reduce Stress During the Holidays
For most people who have experienced divorce, the holidays to follow will never look the same—and that’s okay. Despite the differences, there are so many ways that coparents can ensure their children feel safe, loved, and cared for during the holiday season. After all, the Christmas spirit isn’t reserved for happy marriages, but is something that all loving families can enjoy on their own terms. Keep reading to learn 3 tips to coparent effectively during this holiday season.
#1. Put your child first.
While this may seem like an obvious tip, it’s especially crucial to remember—and listed at the top of this list for a reason. Change is hard for adults and kids alike. While it can be difficult to accept new things—maybe your ex finally asks to bring a significant other to Thanksgiving dinner, or plans change last minute due to a coparent's work conflict—it's healthy to stay openminded.
This isn’t to say that you must blindly accept any curveballs that come your way. At the end of the day, only you know what’s best for your family and your children. The best way to determine the root of your feelings is to check in with yourself. Are you irritated about an inconvenience because it’s truly inconsiderate or impractical? Or are there perhaps other feelings getting in your way (jealousy, nostalgia, reluctance to surrender control, etc.)?
Whatever feelings you have during the ups and downs of the holiday season, they’re completely valid. Still, you’ll likely find it beneficial to dig a little deeper. Do your best to be flexible, and take the time to process things before you react. When you feel frustrated, ask yourself: what is best for your child? Reflecting on this question will likely shed some light on the answers you need.
#2. Always have a plan—and stick to it.
One of the best things you can give your child for Christmas is consistency. Divorce takes its toll on kids and parents alike, and it’s essential for your child to feel as stabilized and grounded as possible, especially during a season of constant changes (such as their mom or dad moving out, bouncing from parent to parent throughout the year, or meeting a parent’s significant others that come and go).
It's crucial to coordinate with your ex regarding holiday plans. Whether you choose to celebrate together or alternate, do whatever it takes to the holiday plans you originally agreed upon (and, of course, always stick to the child custody arrangement ordered by the court). This doesn’t mean that problems won’t come up (we live in reality, after all) but it’s always a good idea to roll with the punches, be flexible, and be willing to compromise when needed. Doing so can greatly help your child, and ensure this holiday season is one to remember fondly for years to come.
#3. Coordinate with your coparent regarding gifts and festivities.
When it comes to blended families, children with half-siblings or step-siblings may require unique consideration and care—for example, making sure that parents and significant others don’t double up on gifts for one child and accidentally neglect the other. As adults, we know that material things aren’t a quantifiable measure of love, but if a child feels left out during gift-giving or new family traditions they don’t feel included in, it can do a number on their emotional and mental health.
Even if your holiday season only includes your ex and the children you two share, it’s important to be mindful of your child’s feelings and coordinate with your coparent to prioritize them. Consider the following practices to ensure everyone feels included:
- Discuss gift-giving and spending limits ahead of time. Discuss budget and wish lists with your ex ahead of time. If your child’s half-sibling ends up with five expensive toys and your child ends up with two, this will likely hurt their feelings. A simple conversation before meeting up for gift-giving can prevent occurrences like this. A constructive conversation beforehand can allow a joint decision to be made before any damage is done.
- Have a conversation about planned family traditions. You're already aware that divorce is tough for any child to go through. Children respond to these challenges in their own unique way. For many, keeping old family traditions is crucial to them. It's important to be mindful of how they're feeling. In the event that a coparent wishes to incorporate new traditions with their current family, it’s best to find ways to include your child to ensure they feel seen, heard, and understood.
- Communicate with your ex to know who will be in attendance and for how long during celebrations. If you or your ex is bringing their new significant other to Christmas dinner for the first time, it’s respectful to communicate this ahead of time—not just for the other coparent’s sake, but for your child’s sake, too. In moments like these, it’s often best to sit your child down and set clear and gentle expectations for them. Addressing complex feelings before family gatherings will allow your child the needed time and space to express how they feel and work through any conflicting emotions regarding the news, whatever it happens to be.
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Our board-certified family law attorneys in San Diego take pride in serving families throughout Southern California. We know that divorce isn’t simply ending a marriage, but a way to pave a healthy path forward to care for your family to the best of your ability. At Family Law San Diego, you can count on us to put your family’s mental, financial, and emotional health first.
Our skilled lawyers understand just how complex and sensitive family law disputes can be, which is why we always strive to resolve matters compassionately and effectively. We believe in creative, innovative legal solutions that will minimize damage and protect your family as much as possible during difficult times. We don’t shy away from litigation, but at the end of the day, we know your family’s wellbeing comes first.
When it comes to family, you can rely on the skill and experience at Family Law San Diego. Call (619) 577-4900 or contact us online to request a consultation.