Recently divorced? Been divorced a few years or newly separated? There will be a definite need for compromising with your ex over the festive season. Whether you are separated and alone or if you or your ex partner now have a new family to consider, negotiating how to share the children is never easy, and can be especially fraught at this time of year when it is hard to let go. Our top tips to help you compromise are:
- Always put children first. Put their wishes and needs above those of yourselves and other family members. It is important to maintain Christmas as a happy time for your children, and for yourself. If things are getting heated, think “What would they really enjoy and how would it work best for them?”
- Try to view everything through each other’s perspective. It is often easy to get wound up or angry when your ex asks for something or makes a comment that immediately gets your back up. Take a few deep breaths and then try to put yourself in their shoes for a moment and understand where their thought process is coming from. You are far more likely to come to a more sensible compromise when you take this action, rather than becoming aggressive and standing your ground, or escalating the conversation into an argument that upsets everyone further, and usually involves more feelings than practical solutions to the issue in hand.
- Listen. This is a hard practice to do, but actually to listen to your ex partner can be very useful in working out a compromise to the situation. When some listening takes place you may find that you are both just wanting the same reassurance that you will both get to spend some quality time with your children. This can make it much easier to plan, without arguing and bad-mouthing your ex partner because you just feel that they are taking liberties.
- Make a plan that works for both of you and your families. Start planning as early as possible so that no one feels as though plans have been sprung upon them without care and consideration for their feelings or wants.
- Let go of the need to stick to the way things have always been done. Now is the time to start making new family traditions with the situation as it is, not to dwell on the way things used to be, or remaining cross and frustrated that you can’t carry on with the traditions on exactly the same days in the same locations. Will it really make a huge difference if you carry on your traditions a few days earlier or later? Or do them next year on the days/times they used to be done?
- Are there ways in which you can be more flexible with arrangements? Think of when the children will see both of you as parents, and their Grandparents or other family members. Do the days/times really matter? Remember, that children are often very accepting of situations that, as adults, we find hard to deal with. They may be quite happy to spend time with both of you and have two separate Christmas celebrations spread over a few days, just so that they can see each parent.
- Encourage contact with the other parent. Contacting the other parent via phone/text/FaceTime can help considerably with the upset of them not actually being in the room with their child.
- Focus on the matter in hand rather than raking over old ground and hurts. There is no need to do this in order to reach a successful compromise.