Read this carefully for some holiday stress buster tips. In our office, we are blessed with the task of helping families survive divorce and helping parents learn to work together. Currently there are thousands of family law cases pending in Tarrant County. The insights we are sharing come from what we see as our ultimate success stories . . . families united in child-rearing in spite of a divorce or child custody battle.
In most cases, a divorce with children has a specific holiday schedule for each parent. That should make it simple, right? Sad to say, but that would be wrong. Every year at this time, we hear from people who are having problems involving their children and their ex for the holidays. Sometimes we hear, “She won’t let me have the kids over Christmas Day.” Sometimes we hear, “He never shows up when he is supposed to.” And sometimes, we hear, “I’m not letting her have the kids for Christmas.”
Many times, the situation can be resolved with a quick review of the final Decree or Order. Once we review the document, we can explain what the court has ordered and the parties will abide by what the judge has said. A well-written order is a great first step for a holiday stress buster.
In other instances, one or both parties refuse to follow the order. This is when things go from bad to worse. A violation of a court order is subject to enforcement, and penalties can include jail time. It’s best to follow the current order.
If you don’t have a final order, it can be trickier, but your attorney can work with you to develop a plan and get either temporary orders, or if there is not enough time, prepare a Rule 11 Agreement for the holidays.
Of course, if you believe your child is in danger, you should immediately contact your attorney to address the situation. (Obviously call 911 if it is warranted.) There are mechanisms in place to help you protect your child. It is important to use these mechanisms and not take matters into your own hands whenever possible. Think of it this way: You can only control your own behavior, but you can control your own behavior.
Holiday Stress Buster: The Plan
Now, once we know where the children will be for the holidays, what are some things you can do as a parent to make the best of a potentially difficult time by making the children your priority? These are our best holiday stress buster strategies shared by successful co-parents:
- Stay positive when you communicate with or about the other parent. Children are happiest when their parents communicate in a positive manner. They don’t want to choose sides, so don’t ask them to.
- If at all possible, discuss the children’s wish list for gifts and divvy it up. This is not the time to try to out-Santa each other. It’s also not the time to buy gifts you know your ex will hate.
- Keep some traditions from the family unit. Children really like routine so, if you can, hold onto some of the things you did together before the divorce. If you and your ex are on civil terms, maybe you can do one or two things together; don’t push it if you don’t get along, though.
- Start some new traditions. Maybe you can find something your child really likes to do and incorporate it into your holiday activities. Ice Skating? Driving to look at lights? Cocoa and a favorite movie at home? A cookie exchange? Volunteer opportunity? Find something to do every year as your special new custom.
- Make sure that grandparents and significant others don’t interfere with your co-parenting plan. If you and your ex can work things out, everyone else needs to stay out of it.
So, to recap, safety aside, it is better for your children if you and the other parent can work to make this a great holiday season. Sometimes you have to compromise for the sake of the children. Remember, your efforts now are showing your children how to successfully resolve conflict. You can only control your own behavior, but you can control your own behavior (worth saying twice). And besides, kids are smart, they know which parent is being difficult.
We hope these holiday stress buster tips work for your family and we welcome any additional thoughts you have; send us a message on Facebook or contact us online. We would love to include your tips in a future post.
Have a stress-free happy holiday season, and a joyous New Year.
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