At the best of times, the Christmas season can be stressful. Our To-Do Lists keep getting longer, while the days keep getting shorter. For separated or separating parents it can be particularly difficult to feel like the holidays are a source of joy and relaxation. Trying to navigate residency schedules, co-ordinate last minute changes to plans, while still protecting the ‘magic of the season’ for your children can seem like an uphill battle.
This year, the Family Law Group at Cunningham Swan wanted to put together a list of successful strategies for co-parenting during the holidays. To write the best list possible, we decided to consult with the best list writer and holiday navigator we know – Santa! After a few boxes of cookies and litres of milk, Santa and our team came up with these three strategies:
- Have a Parenting Agreement – The best way to successfully co-parent the holidays is to have a proper parenting agreement. Parenting Agreements resolve potential conflicts before they happen and provide each parent (and their children) with predictability. Parenting Agreements can be as specific or general as co-parents want, which is why they are so effective at reducing holiday stress and conflict. Every happy holiday starts with a well-drafted Parenting Agreement.
- Be Flexible – This may seem counter-intuitive to #1, but flexibility is always an ingredient in successful co-parenting. Even the best laid plans can be upended by unexpected last-minute hiccups. Bad weather? Burnt turkey? Unexpected visits from cranky relatives? Life happens! The best way to mentally prepare for these hiccups is to expect that they will happen. That way if they do happen, you will be more likely to remain calm and resilient.
- Speak, Text, and E-Mail like Santa is Watching… because he is! If you wouldn’t say, write, or type it in front of Santa, then don’t! Put your mental energy into protecting the magic of the season for your children, as opposed to ‘winning’ the holidays relative to your co-parent. If you can increase your joy and relaxation by shrugging off a late drop-off, or disregarding a snippy text message – then do it! Keeping all of your communication to your co-parent clear, short, and kind as possible will increase your success as co-parents.
If you would like help drafting a Parenting Agreement or developing successful co-parenting strategies specific to your family situation, please contact the Family Law Group at Cunningham Swan. We are here to help.