Co-parents can collaborate to make co-parenting during the holidays easier
Co-parenting at any time of the year can be a challenging endeavor, but it becomes especially exacerbated during the holiday season. Coordinating schedules can really ratchet up the stress factor significantly. Co-parents may find themselves more frustrated about the divisive family structure than at any other time of the year. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are six key tips for reducing the stress of co-parenting during the holidays.
1. Plan Ahead
The best way to reduce the stress of co-parenting during the holidays lies in the planning process. Start discussing holiday plans when the kids go back to school after summer. Even if you don’t finalize plans at this time, it helps to get the conversation going. This also opens the door to the communication necessary to reduce stress. Agree at the outset of the conversation that you will not argue over small points. Each co-parent should be calm, collected, and accommodating to the other. This sets an agreeable tone for the planning process that makes it easier to resolve conflicts as they crop up.
Try not to set anything in stone as things may change as the Fall progresses. Starting the conversation early opens the door to both parents considering one another as they plan activities for their children for the holidays. As the time draws nearer, you can have more tangible conversations about specific dates and holiday plans. The more that you communicate about holiday plans, the more accomodating you can both be to ensure that everyone gets equal time with the kids.
2. Remain Flexible
As co-parents, one of the best things you can do for each other and your kids is to remain flexible. Consider it one of the ways that you can truly get into the holiday spirit. Be accommodating to your co-parent for your children’s sake. If something shifts in the schedule that is little more than a minor inconvenience, let it go.
If this is a challenging task, then you might consider working with an intermediary. A family counselor can coordinate conversations on how both parties can be more flexible in the holiday planning process. This is good practice for co-parents that have had issues in the past with holiday planning. Both co-parents should want to end or avoid arguments. It also helps co-parents to work together on future issues for their children as well.
3. Celebrate Together
If you and your co-parent have reached a place where you can celebrate holidays together, then this is the best way to reduce stress. Even if you cannot be together on the actual holiday, planning shared festivities during the season can mitigate the pressure of spending the day with the kids.
For instance, if you both have other plans for Christmas Day, then do a pre or post-Christmas holiday with the kids together. Then, neither party will feel as though they are missing out on the day.
For those blended families that celebrate holidays together routinely, one of the ways to make the process less stressful is to plan the celebration on neutral ground. For example, if co-parents are planning to spend the holidays with their blended families, then perhaps the entire group can travel to another location together.
4. Alternate Holidays
If you are not at a place where you can celebrate together, then alternate the major holidays. For example, if one parent gets Thanksgiving, then the other gets Christmas. If one parent gets New Year’s Eve, then the other gets New Year’s Day.
Alternate each year as well. If one parent got the kids for Christmas Day last year, then they get Christmas Eve this year. This kind of structure keeps the entire process fair and sets expectations in advance for where the kids will be on specific days.
5. Split the Actual Holiday “Day”
If you both want to spend the day of celebration with your children, then split the day. One parent can do Christmas morning, for instance, while the other gets the children in the afternoon. The same can happen on Thanksgiving, where one parent can plan a Thanksgiving breakfast with the children while the other gets dinner.
The important element of this plan is ensuring that both of you get time with your children on the holiday. Try to avoid bickering over who gets more time or what happens during that time.
This may require flexibility for both parents, and ensures that each gets face time with the kids on the big days.
If the co-parents in question are not on speaking terms or do not get along, then perhaps ask a neutral party—such as a grandparent or other relative—to help get the kids back and forth between their parents.
6. Collaborate on Alternatives
If none of these options work, then brainstorm together. This is one of the most important aspects of successful co-parenting. Even if the relationship is not a romantic one or divorce is the reason for the co-parenting structure, parents that collaborate show their children what a healthy example of working together in the face of adversity looks like.
For example, in the interest of fairness, maybe the children stay with grandparents for the holiday and both parents spend time with them on neutral ground. If one co-parent has children from another relationship and the other does not, then maybe collaboration means allowing the child to remain with their siblings and then making other arrangements for the co-parent without other children.
The point is that sometimes brainstorming together creates a structure for co-parents that is more effective than coming up with ideas to allocate time for co-parenting during the holidays on their own.
Family Plan is committed to empowering parents after divorce or separation. We help create harmony by improving collaboration, organization, and simplifying payment obligations to reduce stress and eliminate potential conflict. Stay tuned for the release of our app to help you fast forward your co-parenting.