Saturday, December 12, 2015

Hard but You Can Do It: Co-Parenting on the Holidays

“It is a truth universally acknowledged,” Jane Austen wrote, “that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Except nobody expects that wife to walk out the door three years later, or a husband to call it quits after twenty years, and then have to work out custody issues or holiday time or God knows what else.

But divorce they do, and by they I mean many of us, and at that point we have to figure out how to make the relationship work well enough so that it works best for our children.

And by “we” I mean me. And you.

As a one-time single divorced mother, I went through my share of ups and downs. Those downs can be pretty tough at holiday time, which is why I went searching for resources online before I wrote this post, and found VProud TV’s Guide to Coparenting During the Holidays.

If you are a divorced parent and are looking for a kind but no-nonsense friend to get you through the holiday-parenting blues, VProud is your ticket: real people sharing real experiences and ideas to make divorce easier on you and your child.

When narrator Karen Cahn admitted that the first year “sucks,” I couldn’t help but laugh. My former spouse and I fought like children sometimes—over the most childish things. Fortunately, we were usually able to laugh after cooling off for a few days and compromise—which is exactly what the people in this co-parenting video hope all of us will do.

"Your goal should always be that the happiness and well being of your kids comes first, no matter what,” Cahn says. “Your kids just want their parents to get along and for there to be good vibes…so make that your goal. It's hard as hell but you can do it. Be Bruce and Demi."

You may not be able to laugh about much of anything with your ex—or even have the luxury of cooling off when you’re trying to work out where and with whom your child should spend the holidays. That’s why the VProud tips are so helpful and why I loved seeing parents chime in with ideas that worked for them:

·     You are the adult: don’t make your kid make decisions about who to spend time with on the holidays

Don’t worry about the date because the time you spend together is more important than any actual day

Take advantage of alone time (which can be really fun to figure out)

Be open to transforming traditions (like teaching your Christian cousins how to play dreidel after a Christmas dinner if your family is Jewish)

Something else that hit home for me came from Shannan Younger, who said, "Coparenting is like raising children. Just when you think you have it figured out, it changes. Be flexible and most of all, put your kid first."
I was also struck by Cahn’s comment that “you’re divorcing yourself from your own anger and bitterness.” That is, perhaps, the hardest but most crucial part of every divorced parent’s journey, because if you don’t do it, you can’t move on; you can’t give your kids what they need and you most certainly can’t give much of anything to yourself.

So whether or not you anticipated getting divorced, if you are now and you’re facing the holidays alone, I would encourage you to check out VProud’s video. I would also encourage you to write about your feelings, either disguised as fiction (as I did in The Beat on Ruby’s Street) or in your own journal.

Most importantly I would encourage you to believe that, as Cahn promises, the pain of a new divorce will get better and better times are coming, even on this very first holiday, if you and your spouse are able to put your child’s needs first. If nothing else comforts you, at least listening to other parents who had similar experiences will show you that you’re not alone.

Because all of us parents who went before are standing with you, and we believe in you. And in your kids.

Parent Photo Montage: Courtesy of VProud TV