The holiday season can be especially tough on children of divorced or separated parents. This Christmas, give them a gift they don’t even know they need. Be a better co-parent to make the holidays more festive and less stressful.
The holidays are a busy time of year for everyone. But they can be even worse for the children of separated parents whether divorced, never married, and especially those in the midst of divorce. That’s because all too often holiday stress can feed into a single parent’s worst habits. And when parents are at their worst, kids’ stress is at its highest.
If you are a separated parent, the best gift you can give your kids this Christmas is better co-parenting skills. It may not be something you can wrap up under the tree, but it will take the stress off of your children and make their holidays more merry and bright.
Coordinate Holiday Parenting Time Directly
Holiday parenting time is confusing at best. Schedules often chop school breaks into little pieces to ensure each parent gets access to some of the prime holiday hours. But all those parenting time exchanges require coordination. You and your co-parent need to know when and where they are going to happen, and what the kids need while they are away.
Far too many parents put this burden on their children, asking them to carry messages back and forth and demanding they remember to pack everything they need. There is no excuse for this in an era of instantaneous communication. Go directly to your co-parent to coordinate the details of holiday parenting time. Call, text, message, or email details so that your kids don’t have to bear the stress of managing their calendar.
Plan Gift Giving Together
Nothing is a bigger downer on Christmas morning than opening a gift you have already received. Add to that the desire by children of divorce not to disappoint their parents, and a duplicate gift can ruin a holiday. Save yourself and your co-parent the trouble and disappointment of gift returns, not to mention a distraught daughter. Contact your co-parent and work out who will give which presents, even if it means one of you has to forego the top of the wish list each year. That way your son won’t have to worry about disappointing you when he tells you your ex already got him that prized Nerf gun.
Be Flexible About Parenting Time
A well-written parenting time order will be very specific about when the children will be with each parent. That is great when you need to enforce the order, but it can be too rigid for everyday life. Be realistic about your holiday parenting time. If your daughter wants to go with your co-parent to his family reunion, let her. Work out an adjustment to your parenting time with your co-parent behind the scenes. That will do far more for holiday harmony and well-being than relying on a static parenting time order.
The holidays are supposed to be a time for goodwill and merriment. But discord between co-parents can take the joy out of Christmas for the children of divorce. Don’t be a Scrooge this holiday season. Give your children the gift of being a better co-parent and make the holidays better for everyone.
Lisa J. Schmidt is a family lawyer at Schmidt Law Services, PLLC, in Ferndale, Michigan. She assists families in creating parenting time arrangements that work for them. If you are facing a divorce or custody battle, contact Schmidt Law Services today for a free consultation.