Holidays can be a challenging time for divorced families especially when people crave glowing, Norman Rockwell-type gatherings. It can be upsetting having to split holiday time with your ex and knowing that the person passing the gravy to your kids is not you, but your ex’s new partner.
These experiences, combined with the cultural expectation to have a Hallmark holiday, can send divorced parents into emotional overload. So how do you keep your charged feelings from spilling over onto your kids? Especially at handover time, which can seem like traversing an emotional minefield? Here are some tips for managing holiday drop-offs with true co-parenting finesse.
Communicate with your ex. If your children will be traveling, you and your ex must discuss beforehand what they will need to bring. Winter coats? A special suitcase? A favorite stuffed animal? Bring necessary items to the drop-off. Don’t be passive-aggressive by “forgetting” anything. Similarly, don’t yell at your ex if he didn’t bring what was expected. Protect your children from any transitional snafus by handling the situation like the adult you are and arranging, if possible, to deliver the goods as soon as you can.
Communicate with your children. Younger kids especially can be confused by the change in your usual parenting time plan. Discuss holiday plans with them beforehand. Assure them that hey will get to spend time with both parents. Explain this well before the holiday so they have time to process the news and ask questions before drop-off.
Be on time. Do not be late! If your child is worried about how he’s spending the holiday, rushing to get her to your ex’s will only increase her anxiety. And don’t purposely dawdle. It doesn’t matter how much you hate your ex; your children deserve to arrive to a holiday gathering – or an airport – on time. Remember: ruining the holiday for your ex will also ruin it for your kids.
Keep your feelings in check. No matter how sad or angry you may feel, you must pull yourself together during drop-off. This means no crying, no angry words with your ex, no hostile body language. Your composure will make the handover easier on your kids. It will also model to them how to resolve conflict and manage tough situations. If you must fall apart, do it when you’re alone, or with your therapist.
Don’t prolong drop-off. If your kids are crying, do not use this as an opportunity either to gloat or to seek reassurance from them that they will miss you. Assure your children that you love them, wish them a happy holiday with your ex, and remind them when they will be with you next. Do NOT have a prolonged farewell! If they’re nervous or upset about their time away from you, engineering a long goodbye will only make them feel more anxious. You do not want to communicate, through words or body language, that this is a scary time, or that they have to tend to your feelings. An appropriate exit is much more tolerable for them than an angst-ridden, ambivalent one.
Bottom line? Take the high road. A smooth handover will signal to your children that it’s okay to have a good time with their other parent. It doesn’t matter how big a jerk you think your ex is. Your children deserve to enjoy their holiday.
Have questions about your child custody arrangements? Not quite sure about how to share parenting time over the holidays? Are visitation swaps tense? We can help. For answers to these questions and more, please contact us to schedule your initial attorney consultation.