• Arlene S. Rosen, LMFT

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.