The end of the year holiday visitation schedule can either result In a peaceful, memorable time for parents and their children, or it can become a painful exercise in frustration.
I have encountered many families and their parenting arrangements in my decades as a family law attorney. Needless to say, I’ve observed the best and worst examples of how to share time with children during the holidays. Here are three things that can increase the chances of a peaceful and fulfilling holiday visitation:
HAVE CLEAR COURT ORDERS
The most common reason a visitation plan falls apart rests with the clarity of the court order. If you have an order that simply states “reasonable visitation,” even the most well-intentioned parent can run into conflict concerning interpretation of this ambiguous order.
With travel during the holidays, carefully written court orders are required to address plane flight schedules, costs of transportation and the selection of dates and times for travel to and from the designated destination. In some cases specifying who does pick up and deliveries of the child may be required if there are potential squabbles over candidates.
KEEP ON MESSAGE
Some parents are unwilling to let go of the emotional patterns that contributed to the demise of the adult relationship and use parenting exchanges as the new territory to keep the old adult battles alive. You do not have to expose yourself or (for that matter) your child to this conduct. If direct contact through the phone or in person enhances the chance of destructive encounters, change the means of communication.
Email and texting are good substitutes that leave a paper trail. If you find yourself returning to court because of the other parent’s conduct, you can have written proof of the problem behavior to show to the court. For this reason, it’s not a bad idea to let the other parent know you are keeping a written log of these exchanges in case that information is useful for future court proceedings.
Using curbside pickup and delivery of the child, or having someone else assist in the child’s transport, can also aid in creating a buffer between you and the other parent during parenting exchanges. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you must react to the other parent’s immature conduct. Keep the communication on the task at hand: pick-up and delivery of the child.
LEAD WITH YOUR HEART
Of the three suggested steps , this may be the hardest. Your child deserves a conflict-free holiday. The last thing anyone wishes for the child to experience are parents and other family members fighting with one another as part of their holiday memories. You have the opportunity to serve as ambassador for your child. Even if the other parent can’t understand the importance of cultivating good parenting manners, your child will appreciate the higher road you take when things get tough.
You love your child. The other parent loves this child as well. Show love to your child by leading with your heart when dealing with the other parent. I’ve witnessed some of the most difficult parenting relationships significantly improve when one parent refuses to engage in divisive conduct.
The intimate relationship that created your child may be over but the parenting relationship will continue for a lifetime. It is never too late to try and find the proper footing to enhance communication with the other parent. That approach will always serve the best interests of the child.