As we are in the swing of the holidays, it is a good time to reflect on what is truly important. For kids, the holidays should be filled with excitement and happiness. However, in split households, the holidays are all too often a time for fighting and stress between parents. Below are some simple reminders to ensure your kids have enjoyable memories of the holidays:
Recognize and respect the other parent’s holiday traditions. The kids are the product of two parents and two families, and they should be able to take part in both families’ traditions. If one parent has a big Christmas Eve dinner each year and the other parent only celebrates on Christmas, why not allow the kids to be a part of the Christmas Eve dinner? If the parents are of different religions, arrange the kids’ schedule so that their exposure to each is maximized.
Encourage the kids to contact the other parent on the holiday. This should be an absolute priority that the kids call the other parent on Christmas morning. The kids will most likely be lost in the festivities, so it is up to the parent to ensure the call is made and that the kids are not distracted when they call. It is a good time to remember the golden rule – treat the other parent how you would like to be treated.
Be friendly to each other in the presence of the kids. Ideally, the parents are able to be friendly with each other all the time. But, if not, do not express negativity in the presence of the kids in any fashion. Kids pick up more than we are aware of. They will feel the stress and notice the tension. It is very unfair to put that burden on them.
Rather than thinking of parenting time as your time with your kids, think of it as their time with you and their time with their other parent. When considered from their perspective, it is much easier to share time in a way that is truly in their best interests.
If you simply cannot agree how to share time, follow the parenting plan. Every custody judgment should contain a detailed parenting plan that covers every holiday. I often tell parents that, although they have a parenting plan, my hope for them is that they never have to refer to it. Parents should be able to be flexible. However, that is not always the case. The parenting plan is there as a default when there are disagreements. So, regardless of how strong you believe your argument is or how right you think you are, if there is a disagreement, follow the parenting plan and let it go. This time of year should bring back magical memories for your children as they get older. By setting your differences aside, you can make sure that these are the memories they are left with.
Chelsea helps individuals and families work through some of the most challenging issues they will face in their personal lives while vigorously protecting their interests and rights.