Divorce in Texas marks a transition in the lives not only of the adults, but of the children in the family. While all special events — birthdays, school breaks, family gatherings — can be stressful, divorced parents struggle most at the holidays. Co-parenting can help.
If you and your ex-spouse remember to put your children first in every aspect of holiday planning, you will not only do right by your kids but reflect a fundamental part of Texas law:
Sec. 153.002. BEST INTEREST OF CHILD. The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.
You cannot find a better gift for your children than to reflect the values and letter of Texas law in dealing with your children, at the holidays and all year long.
If you and your ex choose to make the children paramount in all your holiday planning, you will avoid using them as pawns in conflict. You will not treat a discussion of holiday visitation as an opportunity to vent about past grievances.
Instead, the two adults will behave, well, as adults. No matter the personal challenges you two face as divorced co-parents, you have four tools to get you through the holidays:
- Communication — Clearly conveying your own feelings and concerns using basic techniques like “I statements” and body awareness to control your emotions can greatly simplify the back-and-forth needed to share custody of your kids with their other parent
- Consideration — Sure, make your kids your primary concern, but be considerate of your ex-spouse by actively listening when your ex explains a need or want regarding the children; any minor consideration you may show in modifying a schedule or changing a menu can return to you a thousandfold later on
- Coordination — Work with your ex to coordinate gifts, exchange clothing sizes and current kids' interests (nothing lands with a louder thud than giving the hip 11-year-old an 8-year-old's dorky gift), and to prevent overlap or — far worse — a major toy gap
- Compassion — Traditionally, our year-end holidays in Texas offer plenty of moments for pure, innocent emotion and family bonding; having compassion for your ex-spouse and ex-in-laws can transform you in their eyes from Ebenezer Scrooge to the jolly ol' elf himself
Parenting Time Schedules
The Texas Attorney General's office provides some ideas on handling parenting time schedules during the holidays. No matter what your divorce decree says, most family law attorneys will work with co-parenting couples to make legal, temporary modifications at the holidays.
Suppose you are scheduled to have your kids for a holiday week in odd-numbered years, but you have a rare opportunity to take them on a ski vacation to British Columbia this even-numbered year. By communicating clearly ahead of time, showing some consideration for your ex, and being compassionate about your ex's sacrifice, you can probably work out a modified visitation schedule.
On the other hand, waiting until the week before the ski vacation to discuss your plans, displaying anger at your ex, or refusing to see your ex's perspective will only create a toxic atmosphere. And who will suffer? Your children.
Self, Not Selfish
Co-parenting ideally means you each contribute all you want, all you can, and all your kids' need, in equal shares. Avoid overextending yourself during the holidays. Part of compassion is having enough self-respect to realize you cannot do everything alone. You need to take care of yourself in several ways:
- Physically — Get enough rest, learn to say no when you get too many unimportant invitations, and consciously practice some basic health tips
- Mentally — Maybe this holiday is the time to lean on your ex for help, especially if the holidays stir bad memories, spark depression, or create unrealistic expectations for you
- Spiritually — No matter your religion, the calendar year's end is steeped in meaningful ceremonies and traditions; encouraging your kids to honor the spirit of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Yule — or any of the other 17 major religious holidays in December — can restore your spirit and help keep you grounded
First and Last
We suggested keeping your children foremost in your thoughts and planning, but we also want to let them have the last word. Always, always, always talk with your children — at their level — about their wishes and wants.
Your ex-spouse's dream ski vacation over the school holiday may be wonderful. But what if two of your four kids want a warm Texas holiday with relatives and all the comforts of your home? Both you and your ex must talk through everything with your children. Be clear that, even though you and your ex are the adults and will make the final decisions, you value the children's feelings and opinions.
In other words, keep your kids first, last, and always in your thoughts and plans.
Enjoy your holidays and delight in your kids. Take a moment today to contact us, your compassionate, helpful Denton County and Collin County divorce attorney at The Page Law Firm. You may also reach us at 214-618-2101. Let The Page Law Firm help you cope with co-parenting.