By Michael Aurit, JD, MDR and Karen Aurit, LAMFT
Co-parenting through the holidays takes courage.
We understand that you care about your children more than anything and want them to have a happy holiday experience. You also desire your own sense of peace and joy. The holidays can provide new perspectives and a renewal of spirit to achieve both successfully.
Courageous co-parenting begins by developing and understanding your future goals and reaffirming your core personal values. When you are focused on staying true to your goals and values, they can keep you on the right path when conflict with your co-parent arises. When you talk with your co-parent to plan for the holidays, courageous co-parenting will help you notice and move through any negative feelings that may arise.
Holiday planning is an opportunity to enter into these discussions with a renewed spirit of positivity. When there is positivity around communication, coordination, and negotiation, you and your co-parent can create stability for your children throughout this season. You and your co-parent might consider the following:
- First, agreeing to prioritize the kids’ experience;
- Establishing a dedicated time in advance to discuss specific holiday parenting time;
- Avoiding reactiveness by accepting that your co-parent’s unhelpful behaviors are not about you;
- Making balanced proposals that you believe could be agreeable to your co-parent;
- Being flexible and prepared to compromise;
- Agreeing on holiday-related costs;
- Avoiding disparities in your children’s experiences—think consistency; and
- Attending a mediation meeting to reach agreements with the help of a mediator.
Let’s explore some opportunities for holiday courageous co-parenting.
Inside our online mediation rooms, we have helped parents creatively resolve novel Halloween disagreements. This year, conversations usually begin with whether or not the children will go trick-or-treating door-to-door—a more complex issue than the typical where they will go trick-or-treating of years past.
Some co-parents have agreed that their children will trick-or-treat with costumes that include a mask. Others have agreed to host a small Halloween party. While some elect to have Halloween ‘as usual.’
One set of co-parents with a young immuno-compromised child came to a very creative agreement in hopes of protecting their child’s health. Rather than trick-or-treating door-to-door, they agreed to walk through the neighborhood together with their child in costume. As they walked by each home in their neighborhood, they agreed to provide a treat for their child—ensuring that they didn’t miss out on the Halloween fun! Now, that’s cooperative and courageous and creative co-parenting!
To help facilitate productive planning, talk with your co-parent about which parts of the holiday are most important to each of you. Do your best to accommodate their priorities. Then, mix-and-match the Halloween tradition below.
- Making Halloween crafts;
- Getting the kids into their costumes and make-up;
- Attending school or community celebrations;
- Hosting an outdoor in-costume photoshoot;
- Visiting family and friends to show off costumes; or
- Giving the kids treats or small surprises.
It can be very helpful for some co-parents to set detailed timeframes. Here are some ways to share the holiday.
Halloween is Mom’s Favorite Holiday, But it Lands on Dad’s Day
- Dad will have an after-school Pizza Party with the kids at 4:00 PM (spooky music included).
- Mom will arrive at 5:00 PM to pick them up — let the trick-or-treating begin at Moms!
- Mom may have the kids overnight or bring the kids back to Dad’s house by 8:15 PM.
Equal Trick-or-Treat Time
- The kids will stick with the parent who they would normally be with on their regular parenting schedule.
- The other parent will trick-or-treat with the kids in the co-parent’s neighborhood.
- Trick-or-treating may occur jointly or separately, by taking turns, if any tension exists between co-parents.
Kids are relieved when each of their parents positively reinforces their relationship with their other parent. This releases children from “the middle” and allows them to enjoy their relationships with both parents without guilt, shame, or fear. To be a courageous co-parent, you must put your children’s needs first at all times.
Thanksgiving is another opportunity for positive change and courageous co-parenting. Although it might not be easy to compliment your co-parent, or to express gratitude towards them, showing support for your co-parent will help your kids feel secure and happy. After all, that is the most important aspect of any holiday.
Even small steps toward mutual courageous co-parenting can start you both down a road that best supports your children’s emotional well-being. Here are some ideas to get you moving in the right direction:
- Before dinner, make a video of each child expressing why they are grateful for their other parent, and send the video to your co-parent. To kick courageousness up a notch, make your own statement of gratitude as well.
- In the presence of your kids, express your thankfulness for your co-parent.
- Perhaps your co-parent gets a “feather” on the “construction-paper-turkey art project” where each feather represents “things they are thankful for.” Send a photo of the artwork to your co-parent.
Thanksgiving #1 & #2 Tradition
- Most parents chose alternate years where the children spend Thanksgiving. In even-numbered years the kids are with Mom. In odd-numbered years they are with Dad.
- Co-Parents can stick with this approach but introduce what we call “Thanksgiving #1 and Thanksgiving #2”.
- Thanksgiving #1 is defined as Thursday morning to Friday morning, and Thanksgiving #2 is defined as Friday morning to Saturday morning.
- Co-Parents alternate who has Thanksgiving Day (#1) and who has a second Thanksgiving (#2) on Friday evening. Especially when children are young, parents can normalize a “Second Thanksgiving” tradition. Children may feel relieved and will likely be excited for double turkey time or an entirely new tradition of a Pizza and Ice Cream dinner for Thanksgiving #2.