CO-PAR­ENT­ING & CHRIST­MAS

Ev­ery­one de­serves a peace­ful, merry and cher­ished Christ­mas. Re­gard­less of your in­di­vid­ual sit­u­a­tion and even if co- par­ent­ing tension ex­ists, the way you ap­proach it is en­tirely in your power. Here are my best strate­gies for tak­ing con­trol and hav­ing yo

Lift Magazine - - Contents - By Naomi Dou­glas

For sep­a­rated or di­vorced par­ents, Christ­mas can be a dif­fi­cult time of year. Christ­mas has strong as­so­ci­a­tions for us with fam­ily, and mem­o­ries. Few oc­ca­sions can em­pha­sise the pain of a di­vorce, or on­go­ing ten­sions be­tween ex-part­ners the way Christ­mas can.

Any num­ber of things can present them­selves dur­ing this time pe­riod: dis­putes about child shar­ing ar­range­ments, the pres­ence of new sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers in one of the house­holds, mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion, ten­sions be­tween ex­tended fam­ily mem­bers and the pain of shat­tered dreams.

Even par­ents who have been di­vorced for a num­ber of years can find some level of pain lingers at Christ­mas, which in some cases is re-in­flamed by the pres­ence of a new part­ner in the life of their ex.

While this is all to­tally nor­mal, it doesn’t have to ruin what is still a spe­cial time of the year for you as well as your chil­dren. Here are my top tips for re­duc­ing the fallout at Christ­mas and cre­at­ing a happy time this hol­i­day sea­son.

RECOG­NISE THE DIF­FER­ENCE BE­TWEEN WHAT YOU CAN CON­TROL AND WHAT YOU CAN­NOT.

One of the big­gest ad­just­ments a par­ent needs to make af­ter sep­a­ra­tion is that some parts of their chil­dren’s lives are out­side of their con­trol. There is a spec­trum of co-par­ent­ing styles from very co­op­er­a­tive, with a lot of in­for­ma­tion shar­ing and du­pli­cated par­ent­ing strate­gies in both homes, to lit­tle or no com­mu­ni­ca­tion and very dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to par­ent­ing in the two homes. Wher­ever you sit on this spec­trum it is im­por­tant to understand where your con­trol ends and to let go of that part. It is not healthy or help­ful to al­low things you can­not con­trol to eat away at you. I of­ten find that par­ents have dif­fi­culty recog­nis­ing the dif­fer­ence be­tween the things that they can con­trol or gain more con­trol of, and the things that they can­not, be­cause they do not have the ob­jec­tiv­ity needed for this. It is dif­fi­cult to be ob­jec­tive when it comes to our chil­dren and there are times when it is best to have pro­fes­sional help to struc­ture your new fam­ily con­fig­u­ra­tion.

COM­PEN­SATE FOR THE STRESS OF THE SEA­SON WITH EX­TRA SELF CARE.

Your well­be­ing is a vi­tal foun­da­tion for your chil­dren’s well­be­ing. It’s not good for you, or for them if you are liv­ing with high lev­els of dis­tress. Your cir­cum­stances may be very up­set­ting, and in or­der to cope well with that, you need to put ex­tra en­ergy into com­pen­sat­ing for this. Ex­er­cise, rest, fun ac­tiv­i­ties, and coun­selling are all things that can go a long way to­wards get­ting you back on track to feel­ing good.

USE THE HOL­I­DAY PE­RIOD AS A CHANCE TO BUILD A BET­TER CO-PAR­ENT­ING RE­LA­TION­SHIP.

Co-par­ent­ing is a chal­lenge that re­quires ed­u­ca­tion, skills and ef­fort – and this all takes time and prac­tice. Even if you have to co-par­ent with a very chal­leng­ing per­son, there are many things you can do to en­sure that things do not con­tinue to spi­ral down­wards. The re­la­tion­ship that par­ents have with each other as co-par­ents is the world that their chil­dren live in. Imag­ine that you are build­ing a new house for your chil­dren to grow up in. One of the houses has a foun­da­tion built with the con­flict and dis­cord of a trou­ble filled co-par­ent­ing re­la­tion­ship. The other house is filled with peace and is built with a sound struc­ture. Ev­ery time you com­mu­ni­cate with your ex, it is as if you have a brick in your hands. You will place that brick on one of those houses or the other, de­pend­ing on how you choose to com­mu­ni­cate. Which­ever house gets built by all those bricks is the one that your chil­dren will live in.

KEEP ADULT AND CHIL­DREN’S MAT­TERS SEP­A­RATE.

It is so easy to make all of the co-par­ent­ing is­sues a fo­rum for the unresolved re­la­tion­ship dy­nam­ics be­tween you and your ex. It is so very im­por­tant for your chil­dren that you learn how to not do this. If your re­la­tion­ship was very hurt­ful, or even abu­sive, you will need to go through a pe­riod of re­cov­ery and heal­ing. It can be im­por­tant to get ex­cel­lent pro­fes­sional help in or­der to do this and it is worth it! Good re­cov­ery can be the ba­sis of pro­found trans­for­ma­tion al­low­ing you to have a much bet­ter and hap­pier fu­ture!

FIND A WAY TO ENJOY THIS CHRIST­MAS.

Whether you are with your chil­dren or not, whether you have a very painful sit­u­a­tion to con­tend with or not, find some­thing spe­cial just for you this Christ­mas to help you to have a happy time. Spend time with those who care about you, treat your­self to some­thing you’ve been ‘putting off’ be­cause you al­ways put the kids first - maybe it’s some­thing as sim­ple as a man­i­cure or hav­ing a night out with friends. In­vest­ing in your­self is a vi­tal thing to do as a par­ent.

FO­CUS ON MAKING CHRIST­MAS EN­JOY­ABLE FOR YOUR CHIL­DREN.

We know that the most im­por­tant thing in a fam­ily sep­a­ra­tion is to pro­tect our chil­dren from harm and con­flict. Some­times avoid­ing con­flict can be a chal­lenge, es­pe­cially if painful emo­tions are in­volved or par­ent­ing plans aren’t es­tab­lished or be­ing ad­hered

to. The good news though is that there are strate­gies to can help you bet­ter man­age th­ese sit­u­a­tions. If you think you’re likely to find your­self in a con­flict sit­u­a­tion this Christ­mas, a great way to dif­fuse things and not put so much pres­sure on the day is to fo­cus on your chil­dren and get­ting them ex­cited about Christ­mas. Even if you are not go­ing to spend as much time with them as you’d like on the day, you can build a great fes­tive feel­ing lead­ing up to it - cre­ate some new tra­di­tions, get them in­volved in the shop­ping and wrap­ping ex­pe­ri­ence and cre­ate fun ex­pe­ri­ences around open­ing an ad­vent cal­en­dar.

Mod­el­ling re­silience and a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude for your chil­dren at this time could be the best Christ­mas present that you could give them. Not only will it make this year’s Christ­mas hap­pier, you will pro­vide your chil­dren with skills that will serve them well through­out the rest of their lives.

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