Over the holidays, it is not unusual for disputes to arise over visitation times between co-parents. Holidays are stressful times in general. Families today are more varied, more mobile, and more complicated that they were years ago.
It can be easy to escalate from annoyance to anger when your ex seems to be demanding and unconcerned with your plans for the holidays.
A few tips to minimize the discomfort:
- Look at your divorce/parenting decree before the holidays so that you know which dates you are entitled to have this year;
- If you need to change the written plan, ask in advance;
- Make requests/changes in writing (some decrees require it). Even if not required it is helpful and courteous to do so, even if you have worked it out verbally and avoid misunderstanding (“I’ll send you an email with those dates so that we can both put it on our calendars.”);
- Understand that your ex may only be trying to get his/her family together in one place, or make sure that your child does not get left out of any holiday fun;
- Don’t make your child feel he or she is “in the middle”.
- If your ex is trying to annoy you or start trouble, don’t rise to the bait. Stick to your well-organized plan.
- If you must say “no” and hold your ground, do so in as mature a manner as possible and explain to your child in a practical and compassionate way. (“I’m sorry that your (mom/dad) is upset but its important that you spend some time with your grandparents and cousins during this holiday so we can’t make the last-minute change.”).
- If your ex is trying to create trouble and you foresee legal action in the future, keep a written log of the issues, dates and times;
- If there is any danger to your children, act to protect them and do not wait until after the holidays (your child is taken away by force, someone is drinking and then driving your child, illegal drugs are being used around your children or their caretakers are impaired.);
- Learn from this year. How can you make things less stressful next year? “Note to self!”