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The Holidays: A Time for Family, Fun Togetherness

shutterstock_15715711It’s that time of year again and as I am writing this blog, Thanksgiving has already passed, Chanukkah is around the corner and Christmas is less than 3 weeks away. Apart from the hustle and bustle of shopping and pre-holiday gatherings, for some families, the idea of planning their own family holiday celebrations goes beyond the normal logistical hassles. For those of you whose parenting has been affected by separation, divorce and/or the resulting conflict, you probably know what I am referring to. Yes, it’s the added stress, strain and disappointment that often come when your plans to spend at least part of the holidays with your children do not materialize as expected. What should be a happy and fun time of the year – even with the normal hassles – is instead met with a sense of frustration, anger and loss when you aren’t able to share this time with your children.

Each year like clockwork, starting the day before Thanksgiving and continuing up until the day of Christmas Eve, I get calls from parents who are struggling to see their children during the holidays as they had hoped. They are sad, frustrated, disappointed and yes, also angry that what they had hoped would happen, looks like it will not. Common threads in all these calls are:

• A failure to plan ahead and formalize holiday plans with the other parent
• An assumption that the holidays will be shared as you had imagined they would
• An assumption that even when there is conflict between parents, goodwill will prevail and the conflict would be set aside during the holiday period for the sake of the children

Even when holiday timesharing is spelled out in an agreement or court order, this may not guarantee that parents engaged in ongoing custody disputes will necessarily comply. Unfortunately, holiday access periods are notorious for being sabotaged by parents who fail to recognize the value that sharing these important times with both parents holds for children. For some of these parents, denying holiday access time for children and the other parent is often a powerful tool in the alienating process. The challenge remains – what to do about this?

As always, in high conflict custody disputes there is no way to assure that the other parent will cooperate or comply with agreements or orders. But there are things you can do to increase the chances that your holiday plans will go on as expected. Here are some things to consider:

• Confirm holiday access plans well in advance. By that I mean, if you don’t have an agreement or a court order, make sure your holiday access plans are firmed up some time in October. If done verbally, this should be followed by an email or some other documented service such as MyTurnYourTurn.com
• Even if you do have an agreement or court order, re-confirm holiday access plans also some time in October. As above, make sure your plans are documented.
• If you suspect any unreasonable resistance from the other parent, take action sooner than later. Remember, family law attorneys may wind down their schedules early. As well, the courts tend to be backlogged in December and getting a last-minute hearing to decide access may not be possible.
• Resist sharing details of your holiday plans with the children until you have confirmation that your access plans will proceed. It’s not the children’s fault when one parent is non-compliant.

Early action when planning and/or confirming holiday access time may prevent bigger problems later. At the very least, it will give you the time and opportunity to pursue legal options (if needed) to deal with unwarranted resistance from the other parent. Finally, by taking care of holiday access plans early, this may prevent the other parent from sharing his/her holiday plans with the children that may result in their own resistance to spending time with you.

Here’s wishing you health, happiness and peace during this holiday season!

My Turn Your Turn Guest Blogger

Reena Sommer, Ph.D.

Reena Sommer, Ph.D.
Guest Blogger for My Turn Your Turn

About Reena Sommer
Trial consultant specializing in high conflict custody cases involving parental alienation and false allegations of sexual abuse. For more information, check out my website – http://www.custodytrialconsultants.com or email her at dreena@comcast.net or call her at 281-534-3923 . Inquiries welcome.

Please join me on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/custodytrialconsultants and Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/drreena

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Divorce, IN THE SPOTLIGHT, Parenting

 

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Co-parenting during the holidays

Although my co-parenting arrangement was often difficult and my ex and I didn’t agree on most things, holidays were different between us. The visitation schedule was set by the courts months in advance but we were both flexible in making changes as needed in order to allow the children to see any relatives that came in from out-of-town.

We both felt that it was important to put the needs of our daughter first and do what is best for her. I wanted her to be happy during the holidays and never let her see my disappointment when she was not with me. Too often parents feel that they have the upper hand, over the other parent, and get revengeful and hurtful to their co-parent, by being rigid with the holiday visits. This is not fair to the child.

For example, if your visitation agreement states that you have the children the first half of Christmas break and then on Christmas day the children go to your co-parent’s house for the second half of Christmas. Your child’s co-parent tells you they have relatives visiting the first half of Christmas and he/she would like to switch the schedule, what do you do? The right thing to do is to grant the request and allow your children to spend time with those relatives during the first half of the break. If you did not switch the visitation schedule, you may feel like you “won” but is that what’s best for the children? What did you teach them? What memories will they cherish about that holiday?

These are the times that your children see you do what is right and kind. Your actions will teach them to have compassion and be flexible with others.  Someday, maybe not now, they will appreciate you and remember that you loved them enough to do what was right. They will also remember the memories they made with those family members.

What if your child’s co-parent doesn’t do the same? It doesn’t matter. You still need to do what is right. We are not parenting to get applause, we are parenting because we have children that we love and we want them to grow up to be secure, well-adjusted adults.

Here are five tips for parents to make the co-parenting part of the holidays more enjoyable:

1). Document in a calendar all upcoming visitation arrangements so that you know which days the children will be at your house and what days they will be at the co-parents house.

2). Plan your personal schedule ahead of time and create events, parties, movie nights, etc… with your friends and family members  for the days that your children will be at their co-parent’s home.  Keep yourself busy so that you don’t sit and feel depressed about your children’s absence.

3). If your relationship with your co-parent is good, try to include him/her in some of your  holiday activities with your children. This may include your ex’s new family as well. If you’re not comfortable having them in your home perhaps you could do an outing like sledding or looking at Christmas lights as a family.

4). Buy your children’s other parent a gift, from your children, and make it an enjoyable shopping experience. Perhaps, you could really help them make it special helping them make a homemade gift. One year Jillian and I picked out eight of her favorite art drawings, matted them, laminated them and turned them into a set of place mats for her father. That was her father’s favorite gift.

5). Create a new holiday tradition for you and your children. Invite your child’s co-parent and new family or include your new spouse, if possible. Consider singing Christmas carols, decorating Christmas trees at a local senior citizen center or church, feeding the homeless one night during the holiday or providing dinner for a less fortunate child or family.

Regardless of your relationship with your child’s co-parent, it is important that the children feel safe, secure and harmonious in both homes. Holidays should create great memories and are wonderful “teachable” moments in your child’s life. Share with us your special parenting traditions that make the holidays fun for you and your children.

Thank you,

Tracy Taylor
CEO/Founder

Co-written by: Erika Rossi-Raia, Co-Founder

Visit us on our official website at http://www.MyTurnYourTurn.com. My Turn Your Turn is a co-parenting website designed to help organize families and improve communication between co-parents sharing children due to divorce or separation.  Specializing in co-parenting tools and shared parenting resources including an online custody calendar,  online divorce journal, child support tracker and more for blended families, single parents and high conflict divorce cases.

 

 
 

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