Many parents who are emotionally and financially able to work together for the health and happiness of their family opt to focus on their needs by agreeing to a co-parenting arrangement. Regardless of how great things look on paper during your Michigan divorce, emotions can still flare… even in the most mature and devoted arrangements. This is especially true during the holidays. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to keep the focus where it belongs: on a holly jolly holiday season.
Put the Kids First
There are multiple types of co-parenting, but they come down to three general categories: Co-operative Co-parenting, Parallel Co-parenting, and Contested Co-parenting. The first two categories are the best-case situations while the latter can be detrimental for the children involved. Holidays are rough on divorced partners regardless of the custodial arrangements, but co-parenting is all about focusing energy on the kids. This type of parenting agreement requires acknowledgment and acceptance that while you’re no longer married, you’ll always be a family. That rationality extends to the holidays and must be practiced on a daily basis. The kids come first.
Make a Plan and Memorize the Rules
Co-parenting requires constant vigilance and communication, especially during the holidays. Since the kids have one home and you and your ex have separate living arrangements, agreeing upon a holiday schedule is essential. Don’t let the kids make these decisions. They’ll be looking to their parents for guidance and strength. Picking one holiday and alternating every year is a positive and effective way to practice fair co-parenting. Also, remember that even if you don’t get the kids during Christmas Eve mass or on the first day of Hanukkah, you can always plan another make-up celebratory day together during the season.
Avoid the Competitive Cycle
In typical divorces, parents often face interpersonal challenges that result in attempts of competing for affection from the kids. Little ones and not-so-little ones tend to egg that by laying on the guilt. But with co-parenting, the competitive cycle doesn’t have to play a part in daily existence… even at the holidays. Instead of competing with the other parent, compromise. Plan the holidays out from beginning to end.
Every established holiday tradition can’t be continued once the parents’ divorce, but new ones can be implemented. Discuss those with your ex and suggest they create some new holiday traditions on their end as well. Stuck on ideas? Get the kids involved and let them choose among a handful of new traditions that they’ll get to enjoy on both sides. So dad gets to take them to the nativity-based petting zoo? Great. Mom’s taking them to the city-wide light display. It’s a win-win and doubles the fun.
Enjoy Your Newfound Freedom
Sadness can creep up at any time, so it’s important to expect it. The best way to combat that is to do something special for yourself while the kids are elsewhere. Take a long nap or candle-lit bubble bath for one. Go see a movie you’d never be able to enjoy with the kids in tow or grab a spa day. Maybe even start a gym membership and actually go. Parents who take care of themselves tend to take better care of their kids. So don’t let mom or dad suffer in the holiday process.
Co-parenting is possible through the holidays. But it requires strength, determination, and a special type of ongoing relationship with your ex-partner. Even the slightest emotional angst or lingering sadness from the divorce can lead to holiday destruction. If co-parenting is your final decision, be sure to follow the above suggestions and contact a divorce lawyer with any relevant concerns.