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How to have a more peaceful holiday season with a difficult co-parent

On Behalf of | Nov 1, 2020 | divorce and family law |

We are coming up on the season of peace, joy, brotherhood and goodwill. However, if your relationship with your co-parent is still a high-conflict one, the holiday season can be decidedly stressful and unpleasant. You may be getting tense already just anticipating what is going to happen.

Even if you have detailed provisions in your parenting plan for the holidays, unexpected things will always come up that warrant increased communication. Maybe an old friend is coming into town who wants to see the kids, but it is on a day when they’ll be with your co-parent. Perhaps you have a chance to go skiing with friends, but the trip starts a day before your ex is supposed to take them for a week. You know that if you ask for a small change, you will get an earful from your ex about all of your character flaws and deficiencies as a parent.

If you have an ex who still harbors ill feelings (and maybe downright hatred) of you, one of the healthiest things you can do, for you and your children, is to spend less time and energy trying to change them. Focus on what you can change – namely, your own reactions.

A handy acronym that some experts recommend for co-parenting communication is KIND. That stands for kid-centered, informational, nice and direct. Whether your communication is via text, email or in person, no matter what your co-parent says about you, focus on the kids. Keep your communication based on the information you need to give them. Be nice, even if they don’t deserve a nice response, and keep your messages brief and direct.

That does not mean that you should give in to unreasonable requests. However, if you’re able to compromise on some things, your co-parent just might start doing the same.

All of this can be much easier said that done. However, if you focus on what’s best for your children rather than on winning every battle with your ex or constantly defending yourself, it can be easier to practice KIND communication, whether you feel like it or not.

If there were serious issues last year around the holidays or you anticipate them this year, it may be wise to talk with your family law attorney about possible modifications to your parenting plan or other changes you can make in your custody documents to make this a more enjoyable season for everyone.