Are you involved in a high conflict divorce? Are you trying to figure out how to co-parent during the upcoming holidays WITHOUT experiencing a stressful disaster? Here are 5 tips to help you through:
1) Stick as closely to the court ordered holiday schedule as possible.
It's tempting to accept changes to the holiday schedule proposed by a high conflict co-parent the week before the holiday. But, unless those arrangements are memorialized well in advance, in writing, you're inviting last minute holiday conflict. In these cases, sticking as closely as possible to the court-ordered holiday schedule will serve you and your children best.
2) Do everything possible to keep your children away from conflict. This means limiting and controlling your contact with the other parent.
Research shows that exposure of children to conflict between co-parents is more emotionally damaging to children than the divorce itself. One of the best means of communicating with the other parent while keeping the children out of the middle is an online co-parenting tool like Our Family Wizard (www.ourfamilywizard.com). Communicate the court ordered schedule in advance, and let the other parent know that you'll be following it.
3) Let go of having to celebrate the holiday on the actual holiday.
If your holiday time this year means having your children for a few days before Christmas, until Christmas Eve at 9pm, and your tradition has always been to open gifts on Christmas morning, simply move your "Christmas morning" to December 24 instead. Enjoy your time with your children and focus on your relationship with them, not the date on the calendar! For younger children who are still "believers" and who might be confused as to why Santa visited early, simply explain that Santa knows that the kids are with Mom on Christmas Eve and with Dad on Christmas Day this year, and he's making a visit to each house!"
4) Plan well in advance with your family.
Let relatives know well ahead of time the holiday parenting schedule you'll be following, so that your family members can also maximize time with your children.
5) TAKE GREAT CARE OF YOURSELF.
This tip may be last, but it's not at all the least! Think of the airline attendant instruction: "Please place the oxygen mask on yourself first before placing it on your child." In order to be a great parent to your children and enjoy the holidays with them, you have to make self-care a priority. Think about reducing some of the holiday tasks on your list, so that you can get more rest. Make an extra effort to keep your nutritional and exercise goals in tact by enlisting a friend as an accountability and exercise partner. Make time for good friends who encourage and support you. Look into divorce support or church groups that provide counseling or spiritual assistance. If you have health insurance, enlist the regular help of a professional therapist or counselor to learn coping techniques. With proper self-care, you will more present to your children and less prone to stress. And, when your children leave to spend holiday time with the other parent, make sure to fill the void with things that build you up, like supportive and healthy relationships and hobbies.
For legal assistance with family law matters, contact Gertz Law Firm at 513-583-1549.