Divorce Blog

Managing Expectations Over the Holidays

By Ryan Womeldorf

Young Girl Standing in front of a Christmas TreeThe holidays are meant to be a magical time of year. The lights, music, crowded shopping centers, the mystery of Santa, and the joy of little faces can make it a special time. The Holiday season can also evoke those powerful emotions that lead to anxiety, disappointment, and conflict between co-parents.

Separated parents should have what is known as the “co-parenting contract”, especially during the holiday season. These are unwritten expectations that we come to have of our co-parent. This agreement is one that is constantly evolving. And unfortunately, changes are typically made only when those expectations have been unknowingly violated.

Working Within the Co-Parenting Contract During the Holidays

The powerful emotions that come during the holidays have the ability to surface, bringing with them the unspoken expectations of that co-parenting contract. And since the emotions during the holidays can be so strong, it makes having clear terms in those contracts much more important and volatile than it may be during the rest of the year.

Co-parent with Kids

Clarifying Expectations With Your Co-Parent

There are definitely a few things that you can do during the holiday season to clarify expectations with your co-parent.

  • Review your parenting plan. When you came up with the plans with your co-parent, it was to create a fallback for those times where an agreement can’t be reached. This tends to happen a lot more during the holidays.
  • If you don’t have a parenting plan in place, setting up a meeting with your local Fairway office is the best step. Perhaps your co-parent has introduced a change that is different to the current co-parenting plan. Be flexible and prepare to listen to them. Especially during the holiday season, you need your co-parent to be flexible.
  • Once you have reviewed the parenting plan, find a quiet place to discuss priorities and clarify expectations. Write down any specific wishes, especially around the holiday season, and make certain to provide absolute clarification.

Listen and Show Patience

  • Explain why these wishes are important to you. Be assertive, but not aggressive. Remember, you are engaging in conversation, not presenting a demand. Give your co-parent a heads up about what it is you want to discuss so that they have time to wrap their head around things.
  • Prepare to listen to and understand your co-parent. When your co-parent is sharing, they will provide you with a better idea of what their unspoken expectations are for both yourself and the holiday season. Be certain to ask a lot of questions and understand their point of view. By doing this, it allows you to find a mutually satisfying conclusion.
  • Write down what you and your co-parent have agreed to. This agreement doesn’t need to be formal, only a reminder of what’s been said. Send a copy of any notes to your co-parent and ask for feedback. You don’t want to have to re-hash those conflicts during the holidays when you should be worrying about your kids.

Lastly, keep in mind that your co-parent likely wants the same thing that you do: a magical and happy holidays.