Sharing the Kids for Holidays

Sharing custody of children after a divorce can be extremely amicable or an absolute nightmare. Sharing is hard for small children to learn to do and adults don’t always fare much better. But when we put on our big boy or our big girl boots, even though we don’t always feel like it, we can actually take turns.

What Is Sharing?

What is sharing? The Dictionary.com definition of share (the verb) is: “to divide and distribute in shares; apportion” or “to use, participate in, enjoy, receive, etc., jointly”. Both of those combined seem like a healthy way of sharing.  While the first half is a little more clinical and black and white, the second involves ‘giving and receiving’ – together.

Is it a radical idea to think that we could enjoy the custody of our kids?  This would mean making the most of our time with them and without them, as well as negotiating arrangements rather than fighting about them. Hopefully, for most couples, the gloves are off when agreeable parenting arrangements are put in place.  It can be a bit harder if they have been court ordered after an unsuccessful mediation, but even in this situation, until those arrangements change you can still make sharing a priority, in the best interests of the children. Of course, in cases where there is domestic violence or danger to children then you’ll be rightly desiring that your children are in the safest place possible.

One father, Alex Trinidad from Ohio, didn’t start with shared custody.  His ex-wife fought to have their children full-time, while he wanted a 50/50 split.  The divorced couple argued, often through their lawyers.  That was seven years ago.  Their children were the catalyst for changing all of that.  The split couple decided themselves that their children really desired and should have both parents.  One daughter now says,  “We’re not broken. We just have two homes.” The ex-couple are not best friends, but Trinidad says, “We get along well enough to make it work. We still have some disagreements. But we don’t argue or hang up on each other.”

Good communication is key to sharing parental duties.  While most of the year may be fairly regimented because of work, school and other term-time commitments for children, discussing holidays can potentially be stressful and conflict-filled because it can be outside of routine. But it doesn’t need to be a fight. Sometimes families will just stick with the regular schedule, but as long as each parent is in agreement, a different schedule might be set for the holidays to better suit each party and the children.download (21)

Steven Mindel, a Los Angeles family law specialist says, “I’ve noticed that though estranged couples agree to regular visitation schedules as part of their settlement agreement (or the court orders a schedule) most parents rarely stick to them. One parent or the other seems to request (and yes, often demand) a change in the agreed-upon schedule.”

So changes can be made because life and opportunities don’t always happen to a schedule. Let’s be honest, if someone demands something from us, we are much more likely to say ‘no’ just because of the way in which we were spoken to (or at). We ‘get our backs up’ and tend to not really pay attention to what’s being said – we’re just responding to how it’s being said.  It’s understandable, but it’s not always in our or our childrens’ interests to just dismiss something because of tone.

How To Model Sharing To Your Kids

Here are some helpful tips to help you and your kids can enjoy the holidays.

Attitude – be flexible. This is not always an easy task, especially if your former spouse has been hurtful and had their own problematic attitude in the past (and possibly the present).  But having a mindset that prepares for possible change is a great starting point for being flexible with holiday parenting arrangements.

Be willing to give and expect in return. Liaise with your ex about deviating from your normal holiday custody agreement.  Let your ex know that you will be flexible about adjusting the schedule to suit his or her changed needs if they will reciprocate at another time for you.  It may be that this year your ex’s work commitments impinge on his normal two weeks in April with the kids and you can adjust your plans to suit that.  The following year it may be that you can get amazing flights to New Zealand in September, but not October when you usually have the kids.  The expectation would be that where you were flexible for them, they will be flexible for you.

Plan well in advance. Last minute requests for changes to schedule you’ve agreed upon don’t always go well.  If you want there to be a productive discussion and good will towards you, then think and plan ahead.  This is especially important for the sake of the children as well, who like security, routine and no-conflict.

Don’t be a coward and get the children to do your bidding.  You’re the adult – not them.  Even when it’s difficult to communicate with your ex-partner, be professional and civil.  This will vastly benefit your kids who do not want to be caught in the middle.  It can be hard when the other parent is themselves being childish, but you don’t have to join them in the kindergarten. Your children are watching and how you handle it will be a teaching moment for them.

Treat yourself. Don’t mope about when your children are away on holiday with your ex.  Plan to do something fun – activities that you don’t have time to do when they’re around or ones that may download (22)not be kid-friendly! Your home may seem very quiet without your children and knowing they’ll be gone for two weeks can make you feel a little anxious and sad.  Go and get that 1 hour massage, binge on ‘Game of Thrones’, plant the herbs about to go to seed, catch up with that old friend, go bushwalking, sleep-in….you get the idea.

Through all of this, the most important people are your children.

If you would like to talk to a professional about parenting arrangements, then please contact us today for a free, 10-minute phone call.  One of our seasoned family layers would be happy to answer any questions you may have.