Co-Parenting is difficult, but it can be even harder during the holiday season.
Ten Ways To Co-Parent Over The Holidays
1.) Be Positive
Don’t make your child feel bad for going to spend time with the other parent. Instead of feeling guilty for leaving one parent, aim for the child to be happy to have two holidays with two loving—not combative—families.
2.) Listen to Volunteered Preferences
If cooperation exists between co-parents, listen if your child volunteers a reasonable preference when considering the holiday visitation plan (do not ask the child and put them in a position of choosing if they do not voluntarily express their preference). If they express a preference but it is unreasonable, at least make them feel like they are heard and try to incorporate it into the compromise.
3.) Maintain/Establish Traditions
If there are traditions that fall outside of your visitation time, consider deferring those traditions for when you have your child. Make your child feel both important and included, but neither guilty nor responsible.
4.) Empathize and Don’t Act Selfish
Wanting to keep your child to yourself during the holidays (and in general) is a very natural parental feeling. Differentiate this desire from how you act around your child. It is okay to feel this way, but it is not okay for your child to feel guilty or responsible because of the arrangement.
5.) Encourage Support and Communication with Your Co-Parent
Children are significantly hindered if they feel like they cannot express love of one parent in front of the other. Instead of making your child feel guilty for being comfortable enough to express themselves in front of you, encourage it. Letting your child love and communicate with the other co-parent will not make your child love you any less (and in the long run, the result is the contrary). Additionally, if split parenting time is a new concept for your family, it is definitely new and foreign for your child. Be there for them, encourage them to communicate with the other parent, and/or keep a comfort item (like a photo) with them. Chances are your other co-parent wants to be around your child just as much.
6.) Plan with Flexibility in Mind
The best way to prepare for the holidays is to create a detailed visitation plan in writing ahead of time, but be flexible if something unexpected arises. If planning for holiday visitation just isn’t going as planned, keep an eye out for the next post outlining the South Dakota Parenting Guidelines for holiday visitation.
7.) Involve the Child in Holiday Planning
Just because visitation times must be stringently planned between co-parents doesn’t mean the time with your child has to be as well. Let your child have some control over what you do during your visitation time, let them plan a day or themes for celebrating.
Although the court only enforces agreements they sign off on, any holiday visitation schedule should be in writing. Always document communications, how drop-offs went, if things go less than perfectly, or even if they do! It is always better to document communications and events than to not.
9.) Right of First Refusal
If you have plans that do not involve your child and require a babysitter, grant your other co-parent the right of first refusal to babysit instead. You should offer the other co-parent the option, but should not expect them to drop their plans.
10.) Prepare yourself
Perhaps the most important tool to give your child the best holiday season is to get yourself mentally and emotionally prepared. Have plans for when you know your child will be with the other parent. Keep an open mind and always act with your child’s best interest in mind.