(Part 2 of 2)

This is the second in a two-part series sharing co-parenting tips on ways to reduce stress—particularly for children—during the holidays. Part one covers making a child-focused holiday plan. Part two, below, features tips for working together effectively as a team. Read Part one here.

by Stacey Bouchet, PhD for Dadspadblog.com – With the holidays in full swing, spending time with family and loved-ones and participating in old and new family traditions begin to fill our calendars. As adults, it’s important to remember that the children in our families are also developing memories that will last a lifetime during the holiday season, and, naturally, we want them to be positive memories. Holidays can, however, also include stress and expectations, which can be exacerbated by conflict or poor communication with a former spouse, partner, and/or extended family members.

When coordinating and planning over the holiday season, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you both want what is in the best interest of your children, and part of that involves you working as a team. Here are some tips to help make that process a little be easier.

New Is Okay

  • Create new traditions. If you are no longer romantically involved with your child’s parent, and especially if your living arrangements have changed, instead of trying to carry old traditions forward, acknowledge to your children that things are different now and build new traditions and rituals. No, it may not be the same as before, but it can still be happy and meaningful.

You Can Work Together!

  • Don’t compete, cooperate. Do not try to “out-Santa” the other parent. Your children are not prizes to be won, and when you give in to the urge to compete with your ex, everyone loses. It’s best to discuss and agree on what gifts will be purchased. Note, however, that one parent should not be made to feel guilty if they are not in a financial position to purchase a gift that the other parent suggests.
  • Listen to your children. Even a child who is well adjusted may become distressed during the holidays. Don’t panic and don’t try to minimize what your child is feeling. Let them talk about it. Listen. And never get into the blame game in front of your kids. Even if you no longer get along with your former partner, for your child, that’s still his or her mom or dad. On the other hand, don’t over indulge your children or waiver on the agreed upon plan because of a sense of guilt.
  • Commend each other for putting your children first. No one is perfect, and guess what?  No one typically has a perfect holiday! Accept that there may be stressful moments, mix-ups, etc. Take a deep breath, smile, and keep moving forward.
  • Take the high road. Remember that you only have control over you and your behaviors. Even if you don’t personally like your child’s other parent, you can set a wonderful example for your children by purchasing a gift for your child to give to his or her parent or help your child make a present. If you really want to go the extra “diplomatic mile,” do the same for any significant other in your ex’s life that will be spending time with your child during the holidays. Consider inviting your child’s mother/father over for brunch or meeting at a “neutral” place for coffee or a snack for a short time before your children are exchanged.
  • Small gestures can go a long way. What your children want more than anything is to see their parents getting along and respecting one another, regardless of their romantic or marital status. These are the kinds of gifts that truly keep on giving.

Share your holiday, parenting, and co-parenting successes and tips with other parents on our Facebook page or twitter.

Posted by Stacey Bouchet, PhD

Dr. Bouchet is the Lead Research Consultant at Fathers Incorporated and the Founder and Principal Consultant of Bouchet and Associates—Strategic Consulting for Social Change. She has written extensively on issues related to fathers, family strengthening, and vulnerable populations. She provides training, technical assistance, writing, research, and evaluation to the Health and Human Services field.

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