The holidays can be stressful for anyone and sharing custody of your children can definitely add to the holiday angst. Good communication with your co-parent is key to a more joyful holiday season. There are several ways to do this, even if you have a high-conflict co-parenting situation. Try these tips:
5 Ways to Successfully Communicate to Reduce Holiday Stress:
- Plan ahead
- Get things in writing
- Use a co-parenting app
- Involve your kids in the discussion
- Expect the unexpected
Plan ahead for the holiday season.
A lot goes into planning the holidays- from making travel plans to purchasing gifts. With so much to do, planning well in advance is key to a smooth holiday season. Start these discussions with your co-parent in the spring so that you both have time to plan. Waiting until the last minute can lead to disputes and stress that you very well may be able to avoid.
Write out your holiday parenting schedule.
If you already have a parenting plan, the holidays are typically part of this discussion. If who gets the children when has previously been discussed, the most stressful part of the negotiation is already over! You can move on to other issues, like checking off items on your child’s wish list.
If you do not have a parenting plan in place yet, we recommend sitting down with your co-parent to write out a schedule. Make things as fair as possible. The closer you and your co-parent live to each other, the easier it usually is to split the holidays. For example, if you live further apart, you may need to alternate holidays, with one parent getting Thanksgiving Day and the other Christmas day.
Use a co-parenting app to keep track of calendars and communications.
A co-parenting app like OurFamilyWizard can help you track your holiday parenting schedule, keep all the messages between you and your co-parent in one place, allow each parent to stay up-to-date in a virtual journal, reimburse extra holiday expenses, and more. It simplifies communication for even the most high-conflict co-parents, which helps immensely in reducing holiday stress
Involve your kids in the planning discussions.
Since the holidays are usually child-centered, involving them in the discussions can help ease some of the stress associated with going back and forth between homes. If this is their first-year splitting holidays, let them know what to expect and where they will be each day. Get their input on what they’d like to do during the holidays (but remember that the final decision is made by you and your co-parent). The older they are, the more say they may want to have in where they are going and what they are doing. Keep an open mind and be willing to be flexible- the holidays only come around once a year after all!
Expect the unexpected to occur.
The holidays never go off without a few hiccups, even when you don’t throw co-parenting into the mix! Your children may get sick, the weather may not cooperate, or the gifts they put on their wish list may be impossible to find. Anything can happen so be ready to roll with the punches. Make the most out of the time you do have with your children and remember to take care of yourself along the way!
The holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint. Just as you would during a marathon, plan ahead, utilize the tools available to make it as successful as possible, and pace yourself. One day at a time, you will get through it.