We all know that the holidays can be both a stressful and joyous time – it feels like life’s pace is accelerated as we attempt to continue on with our everyday lives in addition to the dinner parties, shopping, decorating, event planning and attending responsibilities that are added to our already bulging calendars.  Co-parenting during the holidays can easily add to our already high stress levels as well.  Stretched schedules are stretched even further given the onslaught of school events, end-of-the-year concerts and recitals and other celebrations to attend.

It’s important to pick your battles with your ex and that concept especially applies to the holidays as well.

When both parents are involved, this often means you’ll see more of your ex during the holidays than the rest of the year.  If the relationship is already strained this can make for some very uncomfortable situations.

How do you deal with the added stress of the holidays, especially when you’re in a co-parenting or custody-sharing situation?  Below are a few ideas to help you deal with your holiday co-parenting stress.

Communicate.  Early and Often.

The back and forth and non-standard time-sharing is often the single largest source of stress when it comes to holiday co-parenting situations.  While you may have a normal visitation schedule the rest of the year, it is often interrupted by holidays to include more time for parents to spend with their children as they enjoy their winter break from school.  The best way to deal with schedule changes is to agree upon the holiday schedule well in advance.  Your schedule may be outlined in excruciating detail in your visitation agreement or it may be somewhat flexible.

For the more flexible agreements, don’t wait until the last minute to decide when each parent will have the children.  Hash out the schedule early and put it on your calendar so you won’t forget.  I even like to add the correspondence or notes to the calendar so that I can see the context of the agreement for that particular holiday.  That way I know exactly what my thoughts were at the time when I requested or agreed to a certain schedule.

Be Flexible.

No one likes a Grinch, especially during the holidays.  It’s important to pick your battles with your ex and that concept especially applies to the holidays as well.  Holiday schedules can be hectic and when they are, it’s best to be as flexible as possible.  Being flexible will show your children your and your ex’s ability to compromise and work together like adults.  And who knows, maybe your flexibility will be returned in the spirit of the season?

Enjoy the Moment.

Much of the original meaning of the holidays often seems lost – it’s a shopping holiday now more than a time to get together and spend time with friends and family.  Don’t let the external stressors get to you.  Remember what the holidays are for – relaxing, recharging and spending time with those you cherish the most.  Do something extra this season that you didn’t do last year.  Maybe you didn’t put up lights outside last year?  How about taking your children caroling to the neighbors for an hour and enjoying hot cocoa afterward?  Or bake a batch of grandma’s recipe cookies from scratch?  It’s often the little things during the holidays that stick with us over the years.  Don’t forget to enjoy those moments.

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