Eleven years ago, getting divorced was the first step in putting my life back together. I am not sure how we got to that point, but we did–which is another story that requires a lot of wine! However, in the midst of finding my way back to me, my kids were lost in the shuffle of finding normal again. My ex-husband and I never took the time to understand that the family dynamic changed for our kids, and that our communication skills are crappy at best. Opening communication with someone that you are not fond of takes major strength. However, you must overlook the difficulties, so that you can be better and more productive for your kids. It won’t be perfect, but it will be work that your kid(s) will appreciate one day.
Co-Parenting is when two parents work together to share the responsibility and communication of raising their kid(s). This is a pretty straightforward explanation, but the process is so hard in reality. Every situation will be different for each family, but here are a few golden nuggets that were beneficial to me, and they might be helpful to other moms who are navigating co-parenting during the holidays:
- Make sure that you have a joint calendar. We have FamCal. It’s so easy to use and makes life with hectic schedules a breeze. It keeps all dates organized so that both parents know times to pick up and who has the kids on which day. I can’t stress enough that you need to have everything on a schedule.
- Find one event that you all can do together. I know this sounds crazy, but it was great for my kids to see that we could have some type of normal holiday tradition as a family. We do the lighting ceremony at the Plaza. It’s open, free, and you don’t have to do a lot of talking to your ex, so that keeps confusion down.
- Talk to one another. I know I just said that not talking to your ex keeps confusion down. But sometimes you have to take the leap and go for it. This one took me a good year to learn to do. But communicating with one another is important, especially during this time of year. One year, we did not talk at all and our kids ended up with the same gifts at both of our homes. Remember: nobody wants to stand in the return line after the holiday season!
- Be courteous to the other parent. Y’all, when I tell you I am still working on this, it is the honest-to-God truth. During the holidays when the kids were small, I would take them to the mall to get pictures with Santa. I would buy two sets of photos and give their dad one as a gift from the kids. By doing this, I was helping my kids deal with the (at that time) new family we had, and I was showing them we could get along, even if we were not together.
- Know that all rules are not set in stone. You are dealing with kids and sometimes they have other plans for us. We can go along with it. Honestly, all this co-parenting is for them anyway. One year, our daughter wanted to stay with me for Christmas, and I was more than okay with it, but we had to make sure my ex was okay with the arrangement. Some situations will require change, and as long as both of you are comfortable with that, then you can make it work. It’s all about being flexible.
Navigating this uncommon way of raising a family is unfamiliar territory for many people. You just have to remember that you both want what is best for your kid(s). There are going to be disagreements along the way, but you can make it work no matter what. Co-parenting is a journey that will mature you and humble you all at the same time–especially during this time of year. Just take it one holiday at a time.