Coparenting During the Holidays

Coparenting can be difficult under ordinary circumstances and the stress of the holidays can make it worse. The holidays are mass marketed as a joyous time full of family and free of stress, but reality can be a lot different especially for survivors of divorce or child custody litigation.

Here are some tips for how to get through the holidays without involving the family court.

Make It About the Children

This one probably seems obvious but it still may be easier said than done. Whenever coordinating holiday plans with a coparent, try to imagine it from the children’s perspective. For the children, we want the holidays to be a time to make happy memories with both parents, if possible. We want to avoid hectic exchange schedules that leave the children swirling in chaos, confusion, and unrest. If this means rescheduling your own holiday tradition to accommodate the other parent’s, it might be best for the children.

Invite the Other Parent

This one is not possible for everyone. If your relationship with your coparent is particularly acrimonious, it might only escalate conflict and ruin everyone’s holidays. But if you and your coparent can be cordial, one way to avoid the difficult scheduling decisions and the added stress of exchanges can be to coordinate to be mutually present at big events like birthdays and holidays.

Communicate Directly

Communication really is the key to coparenting. When it comes to the holidays, the parents should communicate regarding schedules, exchanges, and even the children’s gifts. Discuss gift parameters such as scope, number, and cost of gifts with your coparent to avoid conflict and implicit competition ultimately harmful to the parents and the children. Do not delegate coparenting communications to a spouse, significant other, or any other intermediary. These are your children.

Postpone Conflict

Sometimes conflict is unavoidable, but it usually can be postponed until after the holidays. Remember, these are the moments your children may remember for the rest of their lives. Do everything you can to keep things positive. While it is normal for emotions to surface during the holidays, coparents should do everything possible to postpone arguments until after the holidays.

Insulate the Children

Relatedly, parents should insulate their children from coparenting conflict. Speak positively about your coparent and encourage his or her relationship with your children regardless of your personal issues. Never “vent” to your children about the other parent or ask your children to provide information about the other parent’s home or social life.

Be Flexible

The holidays are not a time to strictly enforce every menial technicality in your child custody order. This does not mean you should abandon it altogether, but try to be flexible if your coparent communicates and needs to rearrange the schedule or the exchange times in a way that does not adversely affect your children.