The Christmas holidays are a time for family. Still, for many single parents, they can also be a time of stress dealing with holiday visitation problems. Child custody arrangements often mean that visitation schedules must be worked out well in advance. If there are problems, it can be challenging to resolve things. If you’re a single parent facing holiday visitation issues, here are a few tips to help you get through the season:
Dealing with the other parent:
First, try to be flexible in your visitation schedule. If your ex-partner wants to have the kids on Christmas Eve, see if you can work something out so that you can still spend time with them on Christmas Day. It’s important to remember that the holidays are about giving children the opportunity to spend time with both of their parents.
Set reasonable expectations:
During the holidays, it’s not uncommon for divorced or separated parents to have disagreements about visitation. In some cases, one parent may try to take advantage of the other parent’s generosity by extending their visit beyond what was initially agreed upon. Or, a parent may unexpectedly show up at their ex’s door expecting to be able to spend time with the kids. This leads to dealing with holiday visitation problems.
To avoid conflict and ensure everyone has a happy holiday season, it’s essential to set reasonable expectations for visitation. The place to start is your court-ordered custody plan. If you don’t have a custody plan and disagreements keep cropping up, it is a good idea to seek one. The custody plan is the tiebreaker when there is disagreement. The two parents can operate outside the plan if they agree, but the custody plan rules if they cannot agree. Custody plans take time to negotiate and get court approval. So start working to clarify the current plan or to get one before next year’s holiday season.
If you’re the custodial parent, communicate a proposed holiday schedule to the other parent that allows maximum time for the kids with each parent. And if you’re a non-custodial parent, don’t assume that you can show up unannounced and expect to be able to spend time with your kids.
By respecting each other’s time and space and putting the kids first, you can avoid holiday drama and ensure that your children have a joyful holiday season. Step away if the other parent refuses to cooperate and continues to cause drama. Take the high road, then seek the advice of your attorney. Remember, the holidays can be magical for kids. Don’t let the drama take that away, even if that means that for this year, you must give in to keep the drama at a minimum. Court access is limited during the holidays, so spend your energy on getting an ordered plan for next year instead of draining yourself with a fight during the holidays.
When it comes to co-parenting, one of the most important things you can do is to keep the lines of communication open with the other parent. This can be a challenge sometimes, especially if you don’t see eye to eye on everything, but it is vital for the sake of your children. Remember that you’re working towards the same goal: raising happy, healthy kids.
Respect the other parent’s boundaries. Robo-calling or incessant texting is not going to end well. Needing constant assurance that your children are okay while in the other parent’s custody is unhealthy for you. It interferes with your children’s ability to relax and enjoy their time with the other parent. The golden rule is sound wisdom here. Would you want the other parent Robo-calling or incessantly texting you? Would you like the other parent to constantly check that the children are okay while in your care?
Avoid making assumptions about the other parent’s thoughts or feelings. Always communicate directly with the other parent and do not send messages through the kids. Remember that there will be times when you disagree – that’s okay! Just agree to disagree and move on.
There are several tools to make communication easier when co-parenting, but we recommend Our Family Wizard. See our post on how it works, but you can find it here. www.ourfamilywizard.com.
Sometimes things just can’t be worked out without outside help. It is better to take the high road and let it go for now. The holidays are no time for a war with the other parent. You may need to seek legal advice and court intervention; both will take time, and time is scarce over the holidays. In the meantime, document what is going on. Save your text messages and emails with the other parent. Back up your phone and computer to be sure the communications are preserved. Make notes about times and dates. It may be months before you get into court, and your memory of some details will fail or become distorted. Our Family Wizard is an excellent tool for documenting communications.
Dealing with the kids.
Dealing with problematic behavior is never easy, but parenting can be incredibly challenging during the holidays with holiday visitation problems. Children may be excited and energetic, which can lead to disruptive behavior. And if you’re sharing custody with an ex, you may have different parenting styles. But there are some things you can do to make the situation more manageable:
- Try to be understanding and patient. Children may not be able to express themselves in words so they may act out in other ways.
- Set clear limits and consequences for bad behavior. This will help children know what is expected of them.
- Let them have some say in what activities they participate in. You are still the parent but take their wishes into account.
- Build in some downtime for the kids. Tired and overwhelmed kids can be cranky kids.
Step away for a few minutes to clear your head if you feel overwhelmed. Take a break if you need to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends or family members. Feel free to ask if you need someone to watch the kids while working or running errands. Single parents often must do everything on their own, but during the holidays, it’s important to accept help from others. Why not ask the other parent? They should be your first call when taking the kids off your hands so you can get some things done. They may appreciate the extra time with the kiddos, and your offer may help smooth the way to a more cooperative relationship. If they say no, then move to other family members or friends.
Discuss and coordinate gift-giving with the other parent. Be sure to share with your family and friends beforehand what you’re comfortable with your children receiving consistent with the plan. That way, there are no surprises on Christmas morning.
Try to stay positive. The holidays can be tricky when dealing with child custody issues but remember that it’s only temporary. Hopefully, you’ll work out a visitation schedule that works for everyone involved. If not, we are here to help. Until then, focus on spending quality time with your children and enjoy the holiday season.
As a parent, it is essential to know your rights and responsibilities. Please call our office for a consultation if you have any questions or need help dealing with custody issues dealing with holiday visitation problems. We are here to help you protect your rights as a parent.
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