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Shared-custody holidays? Focus on the children

By Malinda Williams
For The Taos News
Posted 11/14/18

If you are one of the many parents who will be navigating the additional stress of child custody sharing during the holidays, the most important thing to remember is to be child-focused.Some …

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Shared-custody holidays? Focus on the children

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If you are one of the many parents who will be navigating the additional stress of child custody sharing during the holidays, the most important thing to remember is to be child-focused.

Some separated parents figure out how to spend holidays together with their children. This is ideal. Children whose parents' co-parent well after separation generally do better as adults.

But often couples split for reasons that make spending holidays together nearly impossible, so the children spend partial holidays with their two different families. Here are some ways to help them cope as well as possible with holiday stress.

Be child-focused. Keep in mind your own childhood is over. Happy memories are probably the greatest gift you can give your child. Make the holidays sweet and happy for their sake. This means going out of your way to be pleasant about your ex, make sure your children can spend time with your ex's family and keep the children out of any parenting disputes.

Children parented out of two homes will have happy holiday memories if the focus remains on them, not on conflicts with the other parent. Disagreements over holiday schedules are too common, which is more about the adults than the children.

They aren't going to remember that some years, as a special favor, Santa came on Dec. 23 or Dec. 26. They're going to remember a happy celebration. And that's up to you, parents, to ensure.

Part of focusing on the children would be cutting back on outside obligations. Put time with your children at the top to your to-do list. For example, make homemade gifts with your children to give as gifts.

Communicate with your children. Changes in routine, disappointment, sadness and even guilt about their parents' separation will stress out children during the holidays. Let them know in advance about holiday plans. Ask them about any traditions especially important to them. Some children may want to see the same stocking at both homes or to see Santa at the Plaza.

Let your child vent to you about anger and sadness about holiday changes or not being able to spend time with both parents together. Listen to their feelings. Let them know it's okay to be angry and disappointed. Be clear the split had nothing to do with them.

Gift giving. Remember your children need a present from them for your ex-partner, who is never going to be their ex-parent. A batch of cookies or a handmade card is plenty. You do not want your children to feel bad about not having a gift for their other parent. Your ex may not be as thoughtful. But focus on your child. You can vent to your friends later, always when your children are not around.

Be flexible. Many parents have a court order detailing the child's holiday times with each parent. It is important to use that order as a guide but be flexible. Rushing to court in early December because you will not agree to let your ex take your child to the Pueblo on Christmas Eve since the order says your time is supposed to start at 6 p.m.--not 7 p.m.--is not focusing on the child.

Your ex may always be difficult, and you may always be the one who focuses on the child and compromises. When your children are adults, they will know which parent was difficult and that you were looking out for them.

Malinda Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence Inc. which offers FREE confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking; community and school violence prevention programs; re-education BIP groups for domestic violence offenders; counseling; shelter; transitional housing; and community thrift store. To talk with someone or get information on services available, call CAV's 24-hour crisis line at (575) 758- 9888 or TaosCAV.org.

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