For many separated parents, Thanksgiving, and the entire holiday season, can spell stress, anxiety and frustration. Emotions can run high, for everyone…but it simply does not have to be this way! Whether you have the children with you for Turkey Day or if this is your spouse’s year, here are five tips to help you achieve holiday co-parenting success.
Put the kids first: As much as your feelings for your ex may threaten to explode this year, take a deep breath, disengage and think about your children. Holidays with separated parents are extremely confusing for kids, especially if this is your first holiday season apart. As part of your co-parenting strategy, make it a point to not speak badly about your ex in front of the children. If your kids are spending part of the holiday with their other parent, make the transition from your home to their home as seamless as possible. Remember, Thanksgiving and the entire holiday season is really about children. Keeping them relaxed will inevitably keep you relaxed, as well.
Start Planning Now: If time permits and you and your ex can sit down together, consider going to a mediator to help you sort out holiday co-parenting plans and schedules. A family mediator has no bias or preference and they can help both of you as a separated couple work together for the benefit of your children. They can help guide you as to what the law says regarding parenting time and the holidays and can relate to you some typical holiday arrangements that have worked for parents in the past.
Consider Virtual Holiday Parenting Time: If it is not “your” holiday with the kids this year, consider spending some time with them via an online program such as Skype. Of course, do not intrude on the kid’s holiday time and discuss this with your ex prior to the holiday if possible. Designate a time either before or after the Thanksgiving meal to Skype with your kids for a couple minutes. This is a good way to keep your connection with your children and let them know that even though you are not physically with them, they are on your mind and in your heart on Thanksgiving.
Make it Clear to Guests that “Divorce Talk” is Off Limits: If you haven’t seen some of your relatives since your separation, they might want to get caught up on all the news…and do their best to show you their support by bashing your ex. Lay down the rule beforehand that your children will be present and you wish the atmosphere for them to be pleasant and happy, so please no questions or comments about your relationship status, and do not ask your children if they miss their other parent! Your kids simply don’t need to hear any of this. To deflect, come prepared with other conversation starters to get people talking.
Consider Sharing Thanksgiving Day: While not ideal, and certainly not possible if you live a great distance apart, perhaps having a Thanksgiving breakfast or lunch with the kids before they share Thanksgiving dinner with your ex would be beneficial. This way, you could spend some time with them on the holiday without asking your ex to sacrifice the main meal. Remember, however, that your ex may ask to divide your upcoming holiday as well and could propose splitting Christmas Day, for instance. Be open to negotiate with your kid’s other parent in any circumstances, but do not agree to or propose an unrealistic arrangement.
Whatever your holiday plans or schedule, remember that family and peace are the ultimate messages for any holiday season. Keeping these two sentiments close to you will help you, your ex and your kids experience a Thanksgiving for which they can truly be thankful!
If you have questions about your holiday parenting plan, please contact us to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced and compassionate family law attorneys.