This three-part series is written by Ashley-Nicole Russell, an author, speaker, and attorney, who is a child of divorce and a divorcee. She is an expert in divorce culture and shared parenting techniques. Through this series, she will explain what divorcing parents need to keep in mind during the holiday season as they work through separation, divorce, and/or life after divorce.
Part 2: Committing to Communication
Your ex may be the last person you want to talk to in the entire world… especially ahead of a holiday season.
As a divorcee, I get it. As a Collaborative-focused divorce attorney, I want you to look past it. When your children are involved, you and your former spouse need to put them first and commit to a communication plan that is effective. If you choose a collaborative divorce attorney, they’ll help you stay focused with this communication goal and will even help outline plans for situations like holidays, birthdays, and vacations.
I tell my clients that they’ll be a better person and a better parent by the time they’re done with their Collaborative divorce. This can be achieved by learning conflict management types, understanding your co-parent and your children, and developing a new perspective. Think about your communication plan as the game of chess. Instead of being a piece on the board, you want to place yourself above the board with an overview. With this perspective you will develop awareness of the circumstance of divorce and as a person in the divorce.
In my book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, I go into detail on how this communication mindset can be achieved based on psychology and sociology. This book also explains how your communication plan can impact your children in the way that children mirror the behavior they grow up around and what they experience. That being said, a considerate communication plan is important not only for you and your co-parent, but also so your children can learn by example and treat others with respect.
Developing awareness and mindfulness is especially important during holiday seasons. While you and your spouse were married, you may have already had a difficult time determining where you would spend your holidays and with which side of the family. Now that you’re separated, divorcing, or divorced, it’s even more difficult.
In order to incite self-awareness and address potential conflict, here are three questions I encourage my clients to ask themselves before having a conversation with their co-parent.
- What can I get out of this conversation?
-Think about the purpose of the conversation in this circumstance.
- Example: “Where should our children go for Christmas day?”
- What is my desired outcome of this conversation?
-Think about what you want to happen with this circumstance.
-Example: “I want our children to spend Christmas day with my family.”
- What am I willing to give up to get the desired outcome?
-Think about compromise and put yourself in your co-parent’s position.
-Example: “Your family has a bigger Christmas Eve celebration so they can spend Christmas Eve with your family and Christmas morning/day with my family. In addition, they should spend Thanksgiving Day with your family because your mom makes the best turkey and I’d hate for them to miss that. They can spend Black Friday and the weekend with me and my family because my sister is coming in from out of town.
During this process, you need to think about your children and their perspective. No matter whose family they are with on a specific holiday keep this in mind: they’re loved, they’re having fun, they’re participating in family tradition, and they’re at peace knowing their parents have provided them with stability. An important note: as parents, you and your co-parent need to make the decision of where your children will go for the holidays. You should not expect your children to make their own decision because that forces them to play favorites. That will destroy the communication plan that you’ve worked so hard to build.
Another aspect of communication during the holiday season is gift giving and how to split up your child’s wishlist. You and your co-parent need to decide who will purchase what, who will pay for what, and what list will go to Santa Claus to deliver on Christmas morning. Rather than having your children make separate lists for each co-parent, ask each child to make one list that you and your co-parent will discuss. While it may be difficult, think about your co-parent too. If your children are young, they probably can’t go to the store to buy their mom or dad a gift. That’s where you come in. Offer to take them to the store so they can pick out a gift for their mom or dad… your co-parent. Yes, that means you might also have to pay for it. This act will teach your child a valuable lesson of kindness, respect, and selflessness. After all, isn’t that the true meaning of the holiday season?
Ashley-Nicole Russell, Esq