For many parents who are divorced or in the process of going through divorce, holidays are especially challenging to navigate through without losing your cool. As you begin to prepare for the holidays by filling up your freezer full of turkey and pies, it is also wise to prepare ahead of time for the hot-button issues you expect will come right along with the tinsel and tree lights.
By thinking through constructive ways to deal with hot-button issues before your Caller ID lights up with your ex’s name on the phone, you’ll find yourself less likely to feel like you just want to bash him or her with a frozen turkey leg until they plead for mercy.
Here are 3 Sanity-Preserving Tips to remember as you plan for the holiday season:
1. Don’t Harbor Unrealistic Expectations about how your ex will behave during the holidays.
Just because he or she used to be willing to ask for time off at their job to attend your child’s holiday feast at school, doesn’t mean that they will be willing to do the same now that you are divorced. If your ex used to stay out way too late at their Holiday Work Party during the years you were married, expect that they will stay out just as late now or even later.
By tempering your holiday expectations with a well-measured dose of current reality, you can avoid getting as hot as your electric blanket when it comes to co-parenting during the holidays.
2. Resist the Strong Urge to Compete with your Ex.
Are you worried that your ex can afford to spend more than you can for the kids this holiday season? Has your ex planned a lavish holiday buffet or are they taking a ski trip with the kids that you can’t afford to replicate?
Resist the urge to measure your worth as a parent in terms of what you can or cannot provide financially at this time. Instead, give yourself credit for the intrinsic value you provide to your children every day as you carefully strive to meet their essential needs and build on their natural areas of strength. Show them by example what it means to not compromise your values and finances for temporary excitement that dazzles and shines only briefly.
3. Be Very Specific when making plans that involve your children.
When I worked as a paralegal in a law firm that specialized in Family Law, I often heard the attorneys sigh deeply and say, “The devil is in the details.” Does your Parenting Plan include specific pick-up and drop-off times for co-parenting during the holidays? Does it address whose plans take precedence if one of you decides to take the kids along for a few extra days when you travel during the holidays?
Will each of you be willing to adjust your parenting schedules if the children want to spend time with a visiting relative who is staying with the parent who does not have parenting time during their relative’s visit?
These are each common scenarios that can send tempers flaring if the details are not already negotiated, agreed upon and then addressed in writing in the Parenting Plan. The clearer and more specific you are in anticipating potential hot-button issues beforehand, the less likely you will be to need to keep your attorney’s phone number on your speed dial.
By keeping your expectations aligned with the reality of how your ex behaves, resisting the temptation to compete with your ex and making sure your Parenting Plan is very specific and clear about what is expected of each parent, you can focus less of your attention on your frosty ex and more on enjoying this holiday season with your children as it unfolds.