Healthy Co-Parenting Through The Holidays
The holidays can feel overwhelming for anyone, but for people divorced, separating, or moving through a divorce process, the stress of the holidays can feel even more untenable. Frequent issues may arise including: how will the children respond when we are not celebrating together; changed relationships with in-laws; extended family or friendships from the relationship; difficult feelings towards the other co-parent; heightened emotions such as guilt, shame, anger, hurt and pain; just to name a few. We could collectively write a very long book of potential issues, instead we will save the trees knowing and giving space to the idea that everyone experiences difficult situations and concerns for those situations differently.
A few good rules of thumb to follow when navigating the holidays are:
Know your children are always listening and watching; children have better outcomes when parents can manage to show respect and consideration to each other (I know this may be a crazy statement for some)
Increased conflict or disparaging remarks cause some children, including adult children, to feel uncomfortable
Always remember, despite your feelings or your children’s feelings about your co-parent, your children are a part of the other parent, biologically or not
Children have an expressed interest and obligation to ensure their parents are ok. This need supersedes their possible expressions of emotional reactivity towards the other parent.
Forgive the cliché, self-care and presence are very important to manage the holiday co-parenting struggles. Additionally, allow children to feel love and care for your co-parent and allow the co-parent to love them back, children are never ever ever responsible for their parent’s happiness, ever! Children, including adult children, experience an unnatural role when they have to parent a parent. Please, as hard as it is, manage your emotions with your children and do not speak poorly about your co-parent. Gather support, asking your support people/person to follow your lead in showing respect or emotional management for the benefit of the children, actively engage in self-care, connect with another removing the isolation.
Doing your best to follow these tips can help reduce holiday stress and prevent any unwanted conflicts during the holiday season.
Arlene Rosen is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Discernment Counselor, Collaborative Divorce Coach, Mediator, and a CSAT-Candidate working with couples and individuals throughout the Greater Philadelphia Area.