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Can I survive the holidays dealing with my ex over the kids?

The Thanksgiving holiday ushered in the 2016 holiday season, putting divorced parents into a panic at the thought of dealing with exes over holiday custody matters.

There is no doubt that divorce and custody issues adds an additional strata of stress over the layers of chaos the holidays inevitably bring. But with a little planning and foresight, divorced exes can learn to co-parent effectively for the children's best interests.

The newer the circumstances of the divorce are, the more stress to expect from all parties. Holidays are triggers, because parents struggle with expectations of making everything perfect. Children, too, can become upset when they realize that some traditions shared by all the family members will have to be altered now that one parent is out of the home.

Parents sometimes overgift during the holidays out of guilt or trying to outdo the other parent who may not earn as much money. In order to avoid a great disparity where one parent gifts lavishly in contrast to the other's much more modest efforts, discuss setting spending limits with your ex ahead of time. If big ticket items are requested, see if both can contribute to a joint gift.

If the whole family used to enjoy trooping out to the woods and cutting down a holiday tree they then hauled home to decorate, this may no longer be practical post-divorce. While some traditions may have to be abandoned, new ones can be established that can provide bonding experiences for all.

The goal of co-parenting plans should be to make life easier and better for the children. This can require some sacrifices on the part of the parents, as communication and civility are hallmarks of healthy parenting. It may mean biting back a few choice words and overlooking some minor deviations from the plans if accommodating your ex will help make your children's holidays brighter and more memorable for all the right reasons.

Source: Psychology Today, "Developing Co-parenting Plans for the Holidays," Edward Kruk, Ph.D., accessed Nov. 25, 2016

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