Co-parenting can present obstacles at any time of the year, but it tends to be especially difficult on birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions. Here are a few tips for how to approach your next big event:
Decide on a schedule ahead of time
Chances are good that your co-parenting schedule will already be laid out in your custody agreement. If it’s not, make a point to discuss arrangements with your ex-partner well before the identified day. Some co-parents alternate holidays depending on the year, while others split those days in half. If you get along well with your ex-partner, you could even try spending the days together. We want to keep in mind the goal of the holiday, usually this looks like love and connection. If you do not have a healthy dynamic with your ex-partner, then do not force a shared interaction. Our children are smart and attuned to our intentions as well as the energy we give off, most likely they know if things are being forced. The goal is to have a calm and safe experience for everyone involved, so don't force what you feel "should happen".
While it’s generally important to stick to your time-sharing schedule, being flexible every once in a while can go a long way toward building a friendly co-parenting relationship. If you were supposed to have your child all day on Easter but your ex-mother-in-law is throwing a big family party that morning, consider letting your child attend. Your ex-partner may extend you the same generosity on future occasions. You know your relationship and dynamics better than anyone, so use your best judgement with how this will play out. If you feel your dynamic is better off served by following the time share agreement, then do so. There are many ways to protect you and your families peace.
Communicate as much as possible
As long as it’s healthy and safe for you to do so, try to stay in touch and update your ex-partner on your plans so that you’re both on the same page. That way, you’ll avoid conflicts like having both co-parents purchase the same birthday gift or plan the same surprise vacation. Your child might like having the same gift or vacation shared at both houses and this can be planned too. Sharing experiences between households can help your child feel a connection between both of their homes and families which can help decrease symptoms like anxiety.
Take the First Step Toward a Healthy Co-Parenting Relationship
Do you and your ex-partner often struggle to co-parent your child or children that you share? Our therapists know how difficult co-parenting can be—especially on birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions—and we’ll draw on our many years of experience to provide you with helpful advice on how to approach this situation. We can support with individual therapy sessions or couples sessions to best navigate different dynamics that arise. Contact us today to schedule your first therapy session or to complete your free 15 minute phone consultation!