AVOID HOLIDAY STRESSES: PRE-PLANNING VISITATION SCHEDULES
If you are currently involved in, or are one of the recently divorced with minor children, the prospect of negotiating visitation during the holidays probably seems like a frightening task. While you may have a Court Order or a Temporary Order outlining just what visitation will be during the festive season, it is not uncommon for you to feel some anxiety about potential problems that could arise, especially if your ex-spouse is a jerk. Below are some tips you can try to help alleviate some of the pressure not only during the holidays, but throughout the year to help make visitation worry-free:
- Try to be nice:
It’s an old adage that has special meaning during the holidays. For the sake of the kids, try not to get excited if your ex brings the kids home a few minutes late. If you know your ex is the one who is unreasonable and often misinterprets what he or she is entitled to based on the visitation order, gently remind them. If that doesn’t work, use guilt–“Y’know, it’s the holidays, can’t we just try to work this out for the kid’s sake?” Remember that despite your current feelings, there was a time where you (hopefully) cared for this other person. Remind yourself (and them, if necessary) of those better times, and try to push ahead.
- Notify, notify, notify
: if the ex is the forgetful type, be sure to give them a head’s up by phoning them about visitation. If talking one-on-one with your ex is uncomfortable or not advisable based on past relationship dynamics, use e-mail. E-mail is good because you don’t have to listen to them and you have a record of trying to contact in case holiday visitation becomes a legal matter. On a more practical level, if you anticipate trouble, giving your ex advance notice or a gentle reminder about holiday visitation can avoid trouble before the actual day arrives.
- Never alert your kids, especially small ones, if there is a problem
: This can be a bit more difficult with older kids, as they likely have enough sophistication, even if neither of you say anything, to realize that there are problems. No matter what, don’t shout, curse, or scream at your ex in front of your kids, and avoid bad-mouthing your ex to, or in front of, the children. Not only does this put the child in the unfortunate position of having to choose one parent over the other, it is quite selfish because it places your anger and frustration above the child’s welfare. Also, if you continually dis your ex in the child’s presence, your ex will likely have a strong case of parental alienation against you.
- Plan ahead:
Similar to notification, it is a good idea to make the other parent aware of where you and your child will be going during the holiday break. Be sure not to go outside the parameters of what the initial parenting plan and visitation schedule allow–if you cannot take the child out of state, don’t do it. Be aware that if you do go outside what the visitation schedule allows, you could be setting yourself up for some serious trouble–your ex could file a parental abduction charge against you, and the criminal and civil ramifications of that can be quite harsh and expensive for you.
These are just a few ideas to help ease the stress of coordinating visitation with a minor child.