During a time that is usually filled with family, friends, lots of food and joy, it goes without saying that this year’s holiday season is unlike any other, sorry we know it is annoying to keep hearing. This year is undoubtedly more stressful than any other especially for separated/divorced families with COVID-19 regulations etc. With COVID-19, co-parenting during the holidays might leave you with some extra questions or concerns. Here are some tips to help with to co-parenting during this unusual holiday season:
1) Follow the COVID-19 rules: the best way to co-parent during the holidays and to be on the same page as your ex-spouse is to both respect the government regulations. As tough as it may be, if the government is encouraging families not to gather in large groups, both parents need to respect this order.
2) Respect your custody order or parenting agreement: as weird as this year might feel, it is important to abide by your custody schedule. Re-read your custody agreement/judgement and mark which days you have your children on your calendar. COVID-19 might bring about some extra concerns, for example, how will custodial exchanges occur, will your children be able to see their grandparents etc. This is when you truly have to put aside the hurt or pain you feel for your ex-spouse and work together with them to plan events and celebrations in a safe way.
3) Communication is key: COVID-19 is a scary time for everyone and it is tough when two parents are on different pages. During this holiday season, parents need to discuss and come to an agreement that you are both comfortable with. What forms of travel are acceptable? Are there activities that are off limits? Ensure to have these conversations privately (do not let your children hear or participate as this is your job, not theirs) and consider all factors and compromise when possible. The health and safety of your children and your family should be your number one priority.
4) Make your best effort for the holiday to be a stress free time for your children: during the pandemic, children’s lives have been turned upside down, whether it be through online classes, not being able to play with their friends, etc. Use this holiday time to ease your children’s stress, not to add to it by fighting with your ex-spouse. Spend quality time together and keep a positive environment despite all the uncertainty going on in the world.
5) Encourage your children to look forward to the time they will spend with the other parent: children are way more perceptive than we think and often experience a conflict of loyalty when their parents get separated/divorced. They frequently feel like they have to choose one parent over the other or that they cannot express excitement to see the other parent. The best thing you can do for your child during the holiday season is to show them that they can enjoy guilt-free time with the both parents. Encourage them to be excited about time spent with your ex-spouse even if this might hurt on the inside. Your children will feel less burdened and will actually get to enjoy themselves.
6) Make new traditions: though the pandemic has been an incredibly tough time, it has also forced families to get creative and come up with new activities. Take this opportunity to think of out-of-the-box events for your children, whether it is cooking your favorite holiday meals with them, Zooming with your extended family, having a game night, going on an outdoor hike or snowshoe, etc.
7) If you really cannot agree on how to proceed with your co-parent, seek out the help of a neutral third party: unfortunately, not all co-parents will be able to agree on how to go about the holiday season. It is important to note that if you really cannot agree on critical aspects, you can seek the help of a mediator. A mediation session can be done quickly and the decision will be binding for both parents. Another option is to have your pediatrician or another neutral third party like a therapist who has your children’s wellbeing in mind, explain the ways to keep children safe over the holiday. That way it won’t seem like one parent is deciding on behalf of the family and you can get an impartial perspective.
We are wishing you and your family a safe holiday season and encourage everyone to find the silver even now. For any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact us.