It’s the holiday season. If you are a divorced parent who’s struggling to plan for the holidays, I hope these ideas can help you. By now, you probably know that:
- you need a timeshare schedule that both parents agree on ahead of time;
- you must talk to your child about the new arrangements, so it’s not a surprise; also, children need extra emotional support during these weeks;
- you need to be specific in the planning of the days and activities – in writing, especially if you have a history of your ex not respecting a verbal agreement.
These 7 conscious parenting tips are VITAL in navigating the holidays and other important events like birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.
1. Accept that whatever you can’t stand about your ex, that issue is a mirror of You.
I know this is a hard one to comprehend for most parents who are new to the work of conscious parenting, but it is true. Triggers would have no power over you if they had nothing to “activate” or push against. When we react, we are being triggered by a deeply hidden pain that’s been there for a long time – and that’s our responsibility to heal. (*This work is almost impossible to do alone in the beginning; usually it requires therapy, coaching or some kind of guidance.)
2. Accept that there is no black & white solution that will satisfy everyone involved.
Begin with assessing everyone’s needs, priorities and preferences – starting with your child’s. Ask your ex to discuss when children are not present – if you feel comfortable meeting with your ex in person. If not, use email or a co-parenting app- but make sure your communication is free of judgements or projections. Keep it factual and short. Propose options that are within the boundaries of the timeshare agreement. Stay open to negotiating the small things. Holidays are about peace, connection and love- and the only thing your child will remember is how he/she felt. Therefore, stay open to negotiate the logistics of the holidays, and so you can nurture the emotional environment of the holidays.
3. Accept that you will miss your child on the day(s) of.
Prepare yourself to cry; feel sad or guilty or both; or not knowing what to do- especially if this is your first year being divorced. Have a plan in place to feel supported by your family, your friends or your therapist/ coach. This is hard even for more experienced divorced parents. On the bright side, remember that next holiday your child will be with you.
4. Remember that you are more than Mom or Dad. You are a whole person with many layers.
Reconnect with your long-forgotten hobbies, interests and friends. Travel somewhere new; take a dance or an art class; prepare a meal for friends; read; meditate; be out in nature. Take this time to heal yourself. You don’t have to do anything except to be with yourself. Rediscover who you are NOW.
5. Remember that your child deserves- and is benefiting from- having a good time with the other parent.
Assuming that your ex is a decent person, he/she is most probably doing their best to create a positive, memorable holiday experience for your child. Your child needs to feel loved by both parents, despite the hardship of having to navigate two homes.
6. Keep your emotions to yourself. Never make a child feel guilty for being excited to spend time with your ex. Show support for the time with the other parent. Agree on how often you will call or text, and stick to that plan. Celebrate together when you reunite.
7. Accept and embrace your personal growth.
Ask yourself daily and write in your journal:
- What have I learned from this experience?
- What old beliefs can I let go of?
- Who am I now?
- What am I grateful for today?
- What am I grateful to my ex for?
- What do I need?
- What do I want?
- What tools do I need to show up for my child present, playful and connected?
A note from my heart: Post-Separation Abuse & Parental Alienation:
I am well aware that in high-conflict, violent or otherwise toxic co-parenting relationships there is no space for these tools. My heart breaks for the children caught in the middle of such divorces. I encourage parents in these situations to seek legal advice and safety for themselves and their children. For free information, please visit https://www.onemomsbattle.com
Note: This is an edited & improved article of my own blog content published on Nov. 27, 2011