The holiday season, often hailed as the most wonderful time of the year, can present unique challenges for co-parents. Managing two sets of traditions, expectations, and emotional landscapes in separate households can transform a typically joyous time into a source of stress and conflict.
Parenting coach Darlene Taylor knows all about this. When her ex-husband, Mick Cronin, asked her to move across the country so that he could take the job as Head Coach of the UCLA Bruins, she laughed. But then she realized he was serious. He explained that he wanted to remain in his daughter’s life on a regular basis, and would she please consider moving. After consideration, she did.
That was several years ago now and through her experience as a divorced mom, a therapist and a clinical social worker, Darlene now helps other parents navigate divorce and the co-parenting issues that come along with it. Darlene Taylor shares with us today some important things for ex-partners to remember when co-parenting.
Here are five tips to help keep the magic in the season for your children–while keeping your sanity:
1. Plan Ahead
One of the best strategies for avoiding conflict during this time is to have a clearly defined holiday schedule, preferably mapped out in your parenting plan. Many people choose alternating major holidays each year or splitting the holiday time. By having these discussions early and reaching a consensus before the season is here, you can avoid last-minute conflicts and ensure that you can focus on the fun.
2. Flexibility and Compromise
Though having a plan is important, it is just as important to be flexible with plans. Life happens, and showing adaptability can ease tensions and encourage your parenting partner to be flexible too. Being able to go with the flow and compromise for the greater good of the children helps create the best possible holiday experience for them.
3. Manage Expectations
Change can be hard, especially around things as emotionally charged as holiday traditions. Try to take the pressure off this time of year by acknowledging that things will be different, but different does not mean worse. Figuring out how the holidays will look now will be a process. Do your best to emotionally prepare yourself and your children for the changes and challenges that may arise.
4. Create New Traditions
Now is a great time to develop some new traditions with your children that they can look forward to. Letting go of practices that no longer fit your family makes space for new traditions to be born. Involving your children in planning these new traditions can help make them feel like a vital part of creating new customs for the new version of your family.
5. Focus on the Children
Remember that this season is a special time for your children so it’s crucial to put aside any animosity you have for your parenting partner and make decisions based on what’s best for the kids. If it is feasible to maintain some familiar traditions, do so. This can provide a sense of stability and comfort. If you are concentrating on creating a magical holiday for them, there will be less chance of potential conflict.
Our children can be some of our best teachers and their guidance here can be priceless. Allow yourself to see this season through their eyes and be swept up in the magic. Even if things are strained with your co-parenting partner, take this opportunity to work together to give your children the gift of a wonderful and peaceful holiday season.
Darlene Taylor is a certified professional parenting and life transitions coach in addition to being a therapist and clinical social worker. As an author and speaker, Darlene’s superpower is helping people see the very best in themselves and achieve things they never thought possible. Before moving to Los Angeles, she was a Gender Studies professor at the University of Cincinnati. When she is not writing, you can find Darlene hanging out with her daughter in Los Angeles and dividing her free time between obstacle course races, the beach, and the tennis court. Her current book is titled, It’s Not About Us: A Co-parenting Survival Guide for Taking the High Road.