Christmas Co Parenting Conflict

*The following is a re-post from 12-14-11

The holidays can be hell for the parent embroiled in the high conflict divorce situation. This is a truly unpleasant time for many single parents. Your ex is a jerk and his/her gift to you is constant badgering and torment. What can you do?

This advice is not very popular with parenting consultants, but I don’t care. My advice is that if your ex is always trying to upset you, at this time of year, you should be a scrooge. You need to be strict with your parenting time.

For the ex who is trying to cause chaos, when they ask for special visitation (because it’s Christmas!), your best bet is to say, “No.” Why? Well, what often happens when someone asks for a special request for the holidays is that the parent who has parenting time for Christmas decides that they could part with the children for a couple of hours. They say okay. It sounds like a good idea, then when you get down to the details it goes the same way everything else goes, it’s a battle. You say two hours, the other parent says, no, I want 4 hours, or you offer the time when your family is not celebrating and the other parent just so happens to want the kids at the same exact time as you do. Maybe you have agreed to the times, but now the other parent expects you to provide all the transportation for the children that day, but you figure, well, he/she wants the kids, he/she can do the driving. The next thing you know it completely breaks down and you renege on the change. Worse yet, your ex has involved the parenting consultant. The parenting consultant is going to give your ex the holiday because you had agreed to give up some parenting time and then reneged. Now, you have lost the entire holiday! Sound crazy? Well, it happens A LOT!

All I am suggesting is that if you are in a highly contentious co parenting situation, this is the time to be protective of your parenting time. It is your parenting time and you have the right to say no without apology or explanation. Some would suggest, oh, that is so mean, the children will be upset! Well, children ARE upset when their parents have divorced. They have already had to accept that they are with Mom sometimes and with Dad sometimes. They will adjust if you tell them that this is the arrangement for Christmas and that you and the other parent had agreed to this (or that this is what the court decided). If you and your ex have fought over everything up to this point, it is highly unlikely that the emotionally charged holidays are the time when you are going to suddenly make nice. It is my opinion that things don’t settle down in these kind of relationships for several years, if at all. What does seem to be the most helpful way to get the co parenting rolling for the high conflict parents is a break. Freedom from courts, lawyers and parenting consultants goes a long way to allow everyone, including the children, to settle into their new lives. For at least the first few years, I recommend that you use the parenting time you have and the other parent use the parenting time that they have. No changes. No reasons to have to iron out little details of a change. It will almost always go bad. It will almost always backfire on you. You would not be so conflicted if you were both accepting of your new lives and new parenting relationship.

Giving people time to adjust is helpful. you may never get along well, but you may be able to learn to navigate once you are both past the hurt. Once new lives are established, you start to get back some confidence. If you are trying to solve all of your problems through a parenting consultant, even if it is only one of you who is always initiating that contact with the parenting consultant, then you are far from healed. You don’t have to figure out everything right away. Hopefully it will come with time, but it won’t come if you continue to battle about everything and never get a break from it. Remember, I am talking about high conflict co parenting relationships. If your is an amicable divorce do what is best for everyone, but if yours is a cooperative co parenting situation, what are you reading this blog for?

If your ex asks for a special holiday request, say no, unless you have no holiday plans or have to work and it doesn’t matter if they are with you or not. You don’t need to add a reason why you are saying no. This is your parenting time, not the other parent’s. If your ex threatens to call the parenting consultant, let them. The parenting consultant is supposed to follow your parenting time listed in the court order. Most of the time they won’t change that without a good reason. Whatever you do, if you give your ex some of your parenting time, do not renege. If you do, that will cause a lot of unpleasantness for you and probably your kids, too.

Image courtesy of Simon Howden /

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