Asking for a Friend: How Do I Co-Parent With My Ex-Spouse Over the Holidays?

Co-parenting after divorce can be stressful, and rarely more so than during the holiday season.  Don’t let tension or conflict between you and your ex-spouse threaten to undo your children’s expectations of a fun and loving holiday season.  Here are some helpful tips for making the best of your situation:

Plan ahead

Having a court-ordered holiday schedule in place dictating when the children will be with each parent will help ease anxiety and allow everyone to make plans with extended family in advance. I regularly field stressful calls from parents in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays indicating their ex-spouse is not agreeing to let him/her take the children to family events surrounding the holidays.  In order to make sure you do not find yourself on the phone with an attorney on December 23rd, make certain to have an agreed-upon holiday schedule in place and incorporated into your judgment of divorce.  You and your ex-spouse are always free to deviate from your court-ordered holiday schedule, but in the event of any disagreement, you know you have a plan in place that you and your children can rely on.

Be Civil

If you find yourself standing next to your ex at your child’s holiday concert, be polite and focus on your child and how excited he or she is to have you both there. After all this about them, not you.

Let your ex have their quality time with the children, don’t argue about it or interfere.  Unless he/she is actually dangerous or abusive, your ex has as much right to spend time with the children for the holidays as you do. Also, keep in mind that a little generosity or reasonableness on your part can sometimes pay dividends the next time you need to ask for a favor. For example, if it is snowing and the roads are bad, allow your ex an extra 30 minutes to safely transport the children.  The court is not likely to hold him/her in contempt for being 30 minutes late for an exchange during a blizzard or icy conditions.

Don’t Bad-Mouth Your Ex-Spouse

While bad-mouthing your ex in front of your children is never healthy, in particular, you do not want your children to feel guilty or conflicted about spending holiday time with your ex or his/her extended family.  Give your children the gift of peace during the holidays.

Resolve to Have the Best Holiday Possible

Especially if the divorce is recent, or is still unfolding, invite family and friends over, play games, watch holiday movies, eat, drink (not too much!) and be merry.  Show your children that whatever the situation is, you can still share holiday cheer with them.  Create a conflict-free zone around your kids and stick to it.

Take Care of Yourself

The holidays can often be a very difficult time for people going through major life changes, including divorce or separation. Acknowledge that within yourself and reach out to family and close friends.  Get enough rest, exercise, and eat healthy (along with a few holiday treats!)  Taking care of yourself will allow you to be more patient with your kids and your ex and can help to make the holidays enjoyable rather than something to be endured.

If you have any questions about your holiday schedule feel free to contact our family law attorneys here in Appleton. Again, the sooner the better as you do not want to be dealing with uncertain plans on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Eve.  There is much we can do to assist you now, however, come December 24th our options will be few and far between.