A recent article from the Washington Times explores ways in which divorced families can survive the holidays. The article does correctly point out that, like in other areas of life, a little advanced planning can go a long way.
Here are my own thoughts on working your way through the holidays as a divorced (or divorcing) parent:
- If you have a court order, read it, follow it, and keep a copy with you.
- Consistently communicate with the other parent using the same means. Don’t call sometimes, text sometimes, and email sometimes. Pick one method of communication and stick with it.
- Use a shared calendar online. There are an incredible number of free calendaring services online. Create a Google, Hotmail (Windows Live), or Yahoo calendar and share it between parents. It’s free. It works.
- Do not use the kids as messengers. For example: “When you see your dad tell him____.” If the end of that sentence is anything other than “Merry Christmas,” then send him/her the message yourself.
- Benefit from consistency. If your ex makes the kids go to bed at 9:00pm, don’t be their hero and allow them to stay up until 2:00am. Children benefit from consistent rules and expectations.
- Have an outlet and schedule it ahead of time. Work into the holiday visitation schedule a healthy way to vent and channel your frustration with your ex. For some people that means exercise or a round of golf. For others that means a chat with friends at a local pub. Vent, just not directly on your ex and not around your kids.
- Use “I” statements. I know, it’s silly, but it’s true. Don’t start any sentence to your ex with the word, “You.” For instance, instead of “You always do stuff like this last minute,” say something like, “I feel like these last minute changes are not helpful or fair.” Focusing your feelings internally prevents the other person from feeling threatened and from becoming defensive–shutting down altogether.