How to Survive Co-parenting During the Chaos of the Holidays
Spending the holidays with your own family, even when everyone is getting along, can be challenging. Things can get even more complicated if you are part of a divorced or blended family or if you are co-parenting. The holidays are a time intended for celebration, remembrance and thanksgiving but, for some, can also be a time of high stress.
Falling only behind the death of a spouse, divorce and separation are the second most stressful times in people’s lives. Research shows that holidays also fall on the list of people’s most stressful times. Many who have been through a divorce or separation experience painful loss and grieve their marriage and relationship. The holidays, an already stressful time for some – coupled with divorce, co-parenting and/or blended families – can exacerbate already heightened emotions or bring about a flooding of emotions. Sharing time with kids, breaking of old traditions, creating new ones, new siblings or step-parents, in-laws – in addition to the normal stressors of gift buying, traveling and holiday parties – can feel undoubtedly overwhelming.
Below is your guide for some practical ways to deal with these feelings around the holidays. They’re also handy tips for before, during and after the holidays.
Recognize these seasons are temporary. While the stress may feel overwhelming right now, know that things can and will get easier over time. As each holiday or event passes, you learn more and more about what works for your family and what doesn’t. Take a deep breath and look at this season as an opportunity to heal, learn and improve.
Communicate logistics and issues well in advance. Giving someone notice about a change in logistics or potential issue gives them more time to plan and respond than if you drop it on them last minute. When people feel rushed or anxious they tend to get more defensive and are more likely to shut down or escalate into conflict.
Extend grace whenever possible. Showing compassion and grace can help reduce negativity and increase a more positive environment. We all have moments where we could use some grace. The hope is if you extend grace when you are able, your family will do the same during a time when you could really use some forgiveness or understanding.
Manage your expectations. Ensure you are not going into the holidays with unrealistic expectations. You can check your expectations by asking yourself, if there is a high probability the other person is capable/willing to follow through? Or, is it likely you will be let down based on past experiences with this person? Sometimes friends and family members can be too biased so a great way to discuss your expectations, disappointments and priorities is by talking with a therapist.
If you find the idea of the upcoming holidays with your family, old or new, overwhelming or are struggling with intense conflict with your family, consider letting one of our highly trained marriage and family therapists support you during this time. We specialize in helping divorced/separated families and blended families co-parent and communicate effectively. Click here if you are ready to schedule your appointment today.