Co-parenting at the Holidays: It’s About Your Kids

Coparenting at the holidays, or any time, works best when you work together for the good of your child.Holidays—with all their excitement, family get-togethers, and busyness—can be challenging if you’re co-parenting. To help keep the holidays happy, remember to keep one thing in focus: your break-up was about you and your Ex, but co-parenting is all about your kids.

By choosing to co-parent,[1] you give your kids some of the benefits of having two parents without the tension of living amid conflict. When you and your Ex work as a team, your kids are more likely to receive:

  • Security
  • Consistency
  • Role models in problem-solving
  • Better mental and emotional health

These are advantages you want your kids to have, right? So here are some tips to keep in mind as you and your Ex navigate the holidays.

Put Your Kids’ Well-Being First

Even if your divorce or break-up was painful and messy, your feelings about your Ex don’t have to sabotage your children’s sense that they are loved.

“Whatever your issues are with your co-parent, put your children’s well-being on the front burner, always," writes relationship expert Sylvia Smith. "Making your children’s security and sense of stability a priority is key to a “successful” divorce.  So do whatever it takes to place them first.”

Working to control your negative feelings and act in the best interests of your kids will help them feel treasured and safe. “Most importantly the children grow up trusting that the adults in their lives put the children’s emotional well-being and safety ahead of parental anger, jealousy or vindictiveness,” says author Trevor Crow Mullineaux.

Follow Four Discipline Do’s and Don’ts

Perhaps the stickiest subject for co-parents is discipline. And it can get crazier around the holidays, when rules about candy and bedtimes and routines can go out the window. Yet kids still need boundaries. So what can you and your co-parent do?

  • Do agree about how to handle interactions between your kids and new partners or extended family. Set some rules. Then stick to them.
  • Don’t set kids up to whine, “But at Dad’s/Mom’s house we get to…” Try to have one set of rules for both houses. Choose the big issues that matter most to each of you, and agree together to uphold the same rules in those key areas. Then give each other some slack on the less-important issues.
  • Don't punish your Ex by allowing your child to wiggle out of responsibility,” writes Deborah Serani. “Making sure to be consistent helps your child transition back and forth from your Ex - and back and forth to you too.”
  • Do avoid accusing your Ex when kids come back to you misbehaving. Dr. Serani advises, “The best approach when communicating is to make your child the focal point: ‘I see the kids doing this-and-that after they return home from their visit. Any ideas of what we can do?’

Improve Communication

Communicating like this may be easier if you think of your co-parent as a co-worker you don’t always get along with. To get the job (raising your kids) done, you must learn to cooperate. And cooperation requires communication. Focus on these essentials:

  • Talk directly to your Ex. Don’t use your kids as go-betweens.
  • Never fight in front of your kids. Show them how self-control looks.
  • Commit to positive talk at home. (Yes, even if your ex-partner doesn’t.) Bad-mouthing your Ex does nothing to build you up in your child’s eyes. And since half of your child comes from your Ex, they’ll feel your put-down of their other parent like a put-down aimed at them.
  • Don’t blame your Ex. Rather than blaming your children’s other parent for your problems, focus on solving your problems. You'll teach your kids to be problem-solvers, too.
  • Update each other often. Keep the other parent informed about your children’s activities, needs, concerns, illnesses—everything they need to know to take good care of your children.

If communicating like this face-to-face is still difficult, you may want to check out these apps developed for co-parents to help keep the kids’ welfare front and center, and the parents’ conflict out of the way.

Co-parenting works best when you remember it’s all about your kids. Click To Tweet

Avoid the Santa Syndrome

It’s tempting to shower your children with gifts or take them to Valley Fair or the Holidazzle to make up for all you can’t do when they’re not with you. But check your motives. Are you trying to ease your guilt? Outdo your Ex? Or simply have fun with your family?

Choose gifts and activities that show you love and treasure your kids. Don’t give in to guilt. And don’t let the holidays break your budget, either. Your kids need YOU—not stuff, not an amusement park. They need your love, your laughter, and your thoughtfulness.

Lean on Your Support

Parenting takes a lot of energy. Co-parenting can take even more. Keep your support network close at hand, especially during times when your needs peak, like the holidays.

And if you’re still looking for reliable, supportive friends,
check out the caring people at Choices Pregnancy Center.

We’re here to support moms and dads before, during, and after pregnancy.
And all our one-on-one life coaching and educational sessions are free.
Get the support you need today.



[1] This post assumes your ex-partner was/is not abusive toward you or the children. If that is not the case, co-parenting may not be a safe option.