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
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.