Co-parenting after a breakup is difficult to begin with. For many families, the holidays are an emotionally charged time and add another layer of stress. On top of that, this year parents are still dealing with COVID-19, including concerns of minimizing exposure across households and navigating periods of quarantine. On top of all this, many parents find themselves faced with the new challenge of educating their children while also working from home. All of these stressors can create a powder keg of emotions for parents. At Posey Legal, P.C., we have some tips parents might find helpful.
Review Your Current Co-parenting Agreement
Before you get into the throes of the holiday season, make sure you know what your current holiday plan is. If you have a written parenting agreement, dust it off and read it with fresh eyes, making sure the agreements you made when your plan was drafted still make sense in light of all the unforeseen changes that have come our way in the past year. Ask your co-parent if they are still on board with the plan as written. If you feel it needs to be changed or adjusted but your co-parent disagrees with you, seek the help of a mediator or family law practitioner early on while there is still time to adjust the plan so that it works for your family’s unique circumstances. In either case, be sure that you and your co-parent have the same understanding around the holiday parenting plan well in advance of the day of your planned trip to spend time with your family.
Communicate… Which Means Also Listening
If you went through the Collaborative Divorce process, you learned some communication skills to use now. Listen to what your co-parent says to be sure you understand exactly what they mean. You may need to repeat back what they tell you to be sure you really understand what they are saying.
An example is to listen to what your ex-spouse has to say. Then, say, “Is this what you mean?” If the answer is, “No,” repeat the exercise until you understand for certain what the other parent means. You do not have to agree with what your they are saying but letting them know that you hear them and understand what they are trying to communicate builds a stronger foundation for making parenting decisions together.
One big topic that may come up is about travel and being with groups during this holiday time with COVID-19 looming over everyone’s holiday plans. How is travel going to be handled? How do both parents feel about visitation with the other parent’s extended family visits? These are hotbed issues that need to be resolved ahead of time.
Keep Focused on the Best Interest of the Children
Put yourself in your children’s shoes. Think about what they are going through and how they feel about traveling back and forth during the holidays. You want to encourage them to have a relationship with the other parent and with that parent’s extended family. Pick your battles and focus on everybody having a good time. Try to be flexible and understanding. Your kids will be much happier if you can avoid nitpicking and having a tug-of-war with their other parent over time spent with them.