Co-Parenting During the Holidays and Beyond

Ask The Experts by Annette Benson

Q: "Getting through the holidays with my ex-spouse and our children was very difficult. We fought about who had them when, who bought them what, and I was miserable. I don't think my children enjoyed it either. I would like to be able to do this better, for their sake. Are there ways we can make it easier on everyone?"

A: The holidays are generally a wonderful time of the year. Children love engaging in family traditions like decorating the tree, baking treats for Santa, watching holiday movies together as a family. Sadly, these joyful traditions often become a casualty of divorce.

While divorce creates a significant change for parents, it is also felt by children. With that in mind, it is important for parents to remember that children see the holidays as a time of hope, love, excitement, joy, peace, and celebration.

Give your child the gift of renewed hope, stability. Show them that change, while unfamiliar and scary, is simply a part of life. Show them that when there is change, there is also growth. You can't change what happened this year, but for the next holiday season, focus on bringing about new traditions. Engage your child in creating activities. Acknowledge what was different this holiday season and find a way to celebrate the new.

Here are some tips to minimize stress - for the holidays and every day:

Remember that children hear everything. While venting your frustrations about your ex to may be therapeutic, don't do it around your children. They identify with both parents and an attack on a parent feels like an attack on them.

Don't make your children decide. Children don't want to hurt their parent's feelings. Don't put them in that position.

Holidays can be celebrated at any time. Holidays do not need to be celebrated on the designated day. Allow your child to communicate with the parent they will not be spending the holiday with. Explain that holidays and special occasions are celebrated anytime they are together with family.

Enter the New Year celebrating change - when embraced, it can be beautiful.

Annette Benson is an attorney whose practice focuses on family law: divorce, legal separation/separate maintenance, support modifications (alimony/child support), change of domicile, domestic violence, and more. She can be reached at (248) 646-2600 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Annette Benson Law is a member of The Family Center's Association of Professionals.

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