Co-parenting hasn't been easy, but you and your former spouse are finally starting to find your groove. With the holidays approaching, you might be feeling a little sad at the prospect of being separated from your kids and are wondering how you will make it through. Don't spend the holidays feeling bitter and depressed and instead, here are a few tips to help you survive your first time co-parenting your kids during the Christmas season:
Work With Your Former Spouse to Create a Schedule
In most cases, the divorce decree will determine the specific dates you will have your kids. However, there may be holes in your divorce agreement that can lead to unnecessary confusion. For example, if you have the kids on Christmas Eve, what time does your spouse expect them on Christmas Day? What if your former spouse's family has a party planned on your visitation day? Will you allow the kids to attend the affair?
Whether you communicate with your ex-spouse through emails, texts or in person, it is vital that you create a rock solid schedule. You need to plan specifically when the children will be picked up, dropped off and where they will be staying. Not only will this lessen the confusion for your kids, it will help ensure that everyone has a very enjoyable holiday season.
While creating a schedule, make sure to cover the little things. For example, make sure that your kids don't get duplicate presents or that one parent isn't spending a lot more on gifts than the other. This could lead to an unnecessary competition that can ruin the holidays.
Keep Old Traditions Alive
Once you have your holiday schedule in place, it is important to begin planning activities for your kids. Once again, it is important you stay in contact with your ex-spouse to ensure your children's family traditions are maintained.
For example, if you have the kids on Christmas Day, it is important to wake the kids up with hot cocoa or eat cinnamon rolls after opening gifts. Encourage your former spouse to do the same. The kids will appreciate the sense of normalcy.
It is important to stay true to old traditions, but it is also critical to create new memories with your kids. Consider going sledding after Christmas dinner or if you don't have the kids until after the new year, make it a new tradition to combine Christmas and New Year's Eve in one!
Make the Transition As Smooth As Possible
Often times, the most difficult aspects of dividing the kids' time during the holiday season are the drop offs, pick-ups and the inevitable confusion and even tears. This is why it is vital you remain calm and courteous. If you don't feel comfortable going to your spouse's home, consider giving them the kids at a neutral place, such as a grocery store.
The transition from the old family traditions to a new single parent household will be difficult, which is why First Things First recommends bringing up this subject with your kids. Let them know that you understand that things are different and that it is hard for everyone. There are times that your plans to transition the kids smoothly from one household to the other won't go well. If you're going to be late or if your plans have changed, make sure to let your ex-spouse know. Conversely, if your ex-spouse changes their plans at the last minute, remember to be flexible instead of starting a fight.
Celebrating the holidays after a divorce can be stressful – especially on your children. The strain of this difficult transition can be lessened by making a plan, keeping the lines of communication open with your ex-spouse, remaining flexible and most importantly, remembering that the happiness of your children is the most important thing.