4 tips on how to survive and coparent during the holidays

Coparenting through the holidays can be difficult.  Emotions are high as well as expectations. We all have the picture in our head of the perfect family holiday and usually our family is just not measuring up to our picture.  High expectations often lead to resentment. Many children of divorce have come to hate the holidays or their birthday, because it is just a day their parents use to fight over them. Here are 4 tips on how to help coparent through the holidays, so your kids learn to love them instead of dread them.

Communicate with the other co-parent

Sit down with your coparent and have a workable plan for your holiday schedule. If you are thinking, “Yeah right, how am I supposed to do that?” Check out my blog post (how to better communicate with your coparent). Check with the coparent before making plans for your children and try to compromise. When planning for the holidays, especially if it involves travel, often this has to be done far in advance. You may end up having to compromise and give up one of your other holidays with the kids, so you can plan ahead.  If you still struggle communicating, enlist a professional like a Coparenting Counselor or Coparenting Mediator that can help you work out your differences and come up with a workable schedule for you and your kids.  Enlisting a professional at this point should be looked at as an investment in preserving your children's fondness for holidays and worth the investment!

  • make a workable schedule with your coparent

  • check with coparent before making plans for children

  • compromise

Create new traditions while preserving the old ones

It will take time for you and your children to come up with new traditions, but slowly put some new traditions in place. Kids love having an anchor like a tradition they can hold onto as a memory.  When kids make a new tradition they are finding meaning and hope in the new normal, and that is a good thing.  Often kids will remember the old traditions and will still want to do them.  As best you can, be OK with that. It was their family that enjoyed those traditions.  If your kids always loved going to your in-laws house on a certain holiday, because that was the family tradition, can you let them continue that tradition for them? Also, become flexible in when you celebrate the holiday.  Holidays are just days.   You can celebrate it any time you want. Be creative.

  • Be flexible. Be flexible. Be flexible.

  • Kids love old traditions. Its an anchor to their past.

  • Help create new traditions. Its an anchor to the future.

Don’t try and out gift each other.

There are usually two reasons divorced parents try and out gift each other 1) guilt over the divorce 2) competition to beat the other parent. Both reasons hurt your kids and allow for them to manipulate both coparents in the future. In the end, what most kids want is your time and attention and there is no price tag for that.  If you remember your most cherished memories as a kid during the holidays how many revolved around a gift and how many revolved around relationships?  My bet is relationships won, because that is what most of us deeply desire.  Gifts come and go.  It is the time we spent with people that we cherished.  Remember that.

  • Have a mtg with your coparent and decide what each of you will be buying them.

  • Don't try and out gift each other.

  • Make memories with your kids. Don't feel the pressure to buy expensive gifts.

Do what? Buy my coparent a gift...

Also, go the extra mile and think of a present you and your child can buy for your coparent. This may be a photograph of your child or something your child  knows that the coparent really wants that is within reason. Have your child pay half, if that is possible.   Pictures of your child are usually safe and reasonably priced gifts to give.  By you taking the time as well as using your money to purchase the gift, shows your child and coparent that you still value your coparent. Don’t forget to do this on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, which can be an especially hard day.  Remember you are not giving these gifts with the expectation of receiving a gift.  You give this gift with no expectation.  You are giving this gift because it is ultimately the best gift to your child by showing your child you value and respect your coparent.

  • Buy a present for your coparent with your child

  • Have your child pay half and/or wrap it

  • Don't forget Mother's or Father's Day

  • Give the gift with no expectation but to show your child you value your coparent

Take care of yourself.

If you are alone on the holidays because the kids are celebrating with your coparent, plan something special for you. It could actually help your kids relax knowing that you have something fun to do. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, exercising, eating well and making time for family and friends. It is easy to put yourself last on the list. Be an example to your kids about how to care for yourself by caring for yourself! Show them how it is done by doing it yourself!  Your kids will never learn how to care for themselves as a parent, if you do not take the time and show them how it is done.

  • Plan something when your kids are away.

  • Get enough sleep, exercise and eat well.

  • Be example to your kids and take care of yourself.

If you are stuck in your co-parenting relationship and not sure how to move forward, co-parenting counseling with me can help!   Please email at sara@sparrowcounsel.com or call me at 205-538-3978 or go online to schedule an appointment.

Featured Photo by Louis Magnotti (unsplash.com)Sara Dungan, M.Ed, LMFT, ALC, NCC, Certified Parenting Coordinator, Divorce and Family Mediator (Domestic Violence Trained) has her private practice called Sparrow Counseling in Birmingham, AL.  She specializes in Parenting Coordination, Co-Parenting Counseling and Divorce and Family Mediation.  Her passion is helping parents learn how to become successful coparents, so their children can thrive after their divorce.  Contact Sara at sara@sparrowcounsel.com.

Sara is an Associate Licensed Counselor (ALC) under the supervision of H. Hobart (Bart) Grooms, M. Div, MEd, LPC-S, LMFT-S, Supervising Counselor.