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Divorce Blog

Learn to Manage Co-parent Contract Expectations

By Karen Stewart

You have an unwritten, unspoken expectation of the other co-parent, but as time passes, it may make sense to clarify contract expectations again. Here are some helpful tips on things you can do to clarify and update agreements.

Save Your Holidays by Managing Expectations

Christmastime is a magical time of the year: the lights, music, over-crowded shopping malls, school concerts, food, Santa’s mystery, and the joy of little faces on Christmas morning. The holiday season evokes powerful positive emotions, but for some, this season can lead to significant disappointment, anxiety, and conflict between co-parents.

Young Girl Standing in front of a Christmas TreeOne solution that can help to balance the disappointments is a “co-parenting contract.” Anyone in any relationship has an unwritten, unspoken contract, but this can cause many problems for divorced families. The co-parenting agreement evolves as circumstances change, and the only way to know if the terms of your contract are working is when a violation of your expectations happens.

With the holidays comes powerful emotions, and without a written and agreed upon contract, problems can go unresolved and grow volatile more than any other time of year. These problems can impact your family in many ways.

The Co-Parent Contract

There are a few things that you can do to clarify your expectations with your co-parent:

Review your parenting plan.

When the co-parenting plan was created, both parents likely defined their expectations around Christmas and other holidays. The contract contains how you will work together to have the best outcome for your children. When you are unable to reach an agreement, your co-parenting contract is your fall back. If your co-parent comes to you with an idea outside the current arrangement, listen to them and be flexible. Remember, you may need your co-parent to be flexible at a later time. If you do not currently have a co-parenting contract, you may want to set up a meeting at your local Fairway office to discuss whether this is the right solution for your family.

Identify priorities and clarify expectations.

After you have reviewed your co-parenting contract, find a quiet place and identify a few priorities and clarify your expectations. Write down your specific wishes and, most importantly, define to yourself why this is important to you and your family. By having a personal statement about the importance of your plan, you will work harder to make it work for your children and co-parent.

Calmly speak with your co-parent.

Maintain the calm, especially during the holidays. Be assertive, but not aggressive – you are not presenting a demand but engaging in conversation. Give your co-parent a heads up about what you want to discuss. Also, give them the time to get their head wrapped around your request. Don’t just identify what you want, but why it’s important to you and how it impacts your children.

Co-parent with KidsBe prepared to listen with the intent of understanding.

When your co-parent is sharing, he/she will provide you with clues into their unwritten, unspoken expectations regarding yourself and Christmas. Ask lots of questions and try your best to understand their point-of-view. By understanding the other person’s perspective, it allows us to find mutually satisfying solutions to complicated problems.

Update your co-parenting contract.

Take time to verify any changes to the current agreement. Make sure that both parents understand any new information. It doesn’t need to be anything formal, just a reminder as to what you’ve said. Send a copy of your notes over to your co-parent and invite any feedback. You don’t want to be re-hashing your conflict on December 25 when picking up your kids for Christmas dinner.

Communication is Key

Keep in mind that your co-parent likely wants the same thing you do: a magical and happy holiday season. With a little planning and communication, as well as a written and agreed-upon plan, you can enjoy your holidays and manage your expectations in a fair way. Happy holidays!