I know most of the clients I have been working with over the past few months have already put in place, or are working towards putting in place, a parenting plan. What better time of year to do so than Christmas! Parenting plans cover all aspects of co-parenting, with one aspect of them being around special days like Christmas day, Birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s Day etc.
Over the holidays, those with school aged children have a minimum of six weeks to figure out what to do with their little darlings. The parenting plan comes into play here, and is especially important if both parents are working as it all gets a bit tricky and conflicts can arise. You think you put things in place last Christmas that encompassed this Christmas but the closer you get to this Christmas, one parent has sudden amnesia about previous verbal agreements in place. Often that parent agreed to it all last Christmas as they got what they wanted then, but this year it’s not suiting their needs or wants so they suddenly deny ever agreeing to such a thing! Sound familiar?? Hmmmmm. This is very common and can be avoided with a carefully thought out Parenting Plan.
Xmas day for some families can be the biggest challenge! Splitting your children in half – well not them as such, but their day between families. Half a day with you and half a day with the other parent and extended family. That often works fine. But what if one family is out of town? How will that work? Who gets to leave town with the children? And how will the children still have a lovely Xmas day if they spend half of it travelling between families?
What will make it a good Xmas day for your children? Consider them in your decision making. Do you want tired, grumpy and exhausted children for your half of Christmas day? Is it fun for them being ferried around town or country half the day? Are they better doing year about with them having a whole day with one parent one year and every second year the other? Or perhaps Christmas Day with Dad and a second Christmas Day with Mum on Boxing Day.
There are a lot of options that can make it easier on all of you. For example, my ex-husband and I have agreed we have our daughter year about for Christmas Day so that I can leave town with her on my Christmas to join my family celebrations out of town, and I holiday with her for 7-10 days from Christmas Day. Then she goes off and holidays with her Dad. The following year he has her Christmas Day and for the 7-10 days that follow and I have a holiday with her later in January.
We both ideally want her for Christmas Day and the 10 days or so from Christmas Day as that’s when our companies shut down. But in reality it’s not going to happen and the only fair way to do this is have year about. We just sometimes have to make these sacrifices when co-parenting. And, yes, it’s hard to make such sacrifices and, yes, it may feel very unfair to you if you were not the one who terminated the relationship/marriage but eventually you have to let that all go and move forward and make decisions that don’t impact on your children. Why should they continue to pay the price for a decision that had nothing to do with them?
So simply try and communicate and make a joint decision that works for you all somehow, and remember Christmas is about the children and family and a time to rejoice. So don’t let badly organised plans or miscommunication get in the way of the precious time you do have with your children.
I do have some families that can all get together for Christmas morning breakfast and all open presents together. They join forces for an hour or two for their children’s happiness. Some even spend the entire day together with new partners in the picture! That’s when it’s very amicable, however that’s often not the case. BUT it can be done in extreme circumstances. I don’t recommend putting yourself through this of course if you know you can’t be in the same room together without being respectful and polite to each other, as that is no fun for anyone and the children do pick up on the animosity! Put your personal issues aside and think about what is best for the children and how you can give them a fun and memorable Christmas like you had when you were a child (hopefully your Christmases were fun!).
Christmas can be a stressful time of year. You don’t really want to be having disagreements year in year out regarding who has the children for Christmas, and over what days of the holidays, so try and future proof your holiday plans. Communicate as early as possible about holidays and what you have in mind around taking the children away so you can both figure out who will have them and when, then you can pre-book your holiday destinations. Try and be a little bit flexible as remember there will be times that you will need your ex to be flexible for you. It goes both ways and if you expect flexibility then you must be flexible sometimes yourself. There has to be give and take for co-parenting to work.
So if you are yet to figure out what you are doing over the Christmas period and need help on putting a plan of some sort together contact me, your divorce coach, and I can help you work through it before you meet with your ex-spouse. I will give you the communication skills and tools to help you show up and simply get on with it as amicably as possible so you get results that suit everyone.
Sometimes couples have such a huge breakdown in communication they cannot sit down together and talk this out. That is where you may have to consider having a meeting with them, including a mediator, so that you are kept on task and can come to some sort of resolution that suits all. I can be there to support you through this process if this is something you need. It can be a difficult thing to face on your own. As your coach I recognise the need to have a support person like me to accompany you to these meetings, if both parties agree.
Make this Christmas and each Christmas going forward a better one for the whole family!