Table of Contents
As we write this article, the festive season is upon us, however, the recommendations we’ve compiled below about how to co parent successfully are helpful at any time of the year.
If you are reading this in the lead up to the holiday season, you’ll likely be feeling a mix of emotions. We all want to spend those special days with our children and as a separated parent, knowing that you may need to miss out or share those days now, is often really hard to come to terms with. Especially the first time around for Christmas, birthdays or other special occasions that exist in your family’s life.
Tip 1: Focus on Your Own Mental Wellbeing
In times of change, your mental health is one of your greatest assets. The challenging emotions that accompany life’s difficulties, although temporary, are very real and often prolonged. It is important to focus on activities and positive thoughts that will support the concept that these challenges will pass and that you are capable of getting through the challenges that will arise.
One non negotiable for you to effectively manage these more challenging times of year will be to prioritise setting aside time for self care. Yes! That’s right, even at the most busy times of the year!
To be able to have a good co parenting relationship, self care is essential so you can restore and maintain energy, better your mood and give you the clarity you need to effectively co parent, especially on the more challenging days.
We know, life is crazy and that holidays throw out routines. But consider where you can carve out even just 15 minutes every other day. Setting your alarm a little earlier in the morning could be a good start to find that time.
Health experts tell us that physical exercise can increase endorphins and will do the world of good to boost your mood. So while yoga is not for everyone, think about what type of exercise will benefit you and fill your cup. And if you don’t know, because it’s been so long since you thought about your own self care, then now is the time to find out what will work for you.
This may also include starting new hobbies or reintroducing interests from the past that fell by the wayside. On hard days, having these activities to do can be a helpful distraction and give you something to look forward to. So start creating a list of possible activities and add to it until you find your ‘thing’.
If you are unsure where to even start with discovering or rediscovering your hobbies and interests, then take time to research online.
Prioritising good sleep is also linked to better mental health. So if you know you’re tempted by technology at the end of a long day, consider what steps to put in place to make some changes to those habits. If you are serious about how to co parent successfully, it starts with your own good mental wellbeing, which is harder to achieve if you’re lacking in sleep. And, if you find you are experiencing anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns, don’t be afraid to ask your GP for a referral to get some professional help, even if only temporarily, to allow you to access this help when you really need it.
Tip 2: Tapping Into a Supportive Circle
Having friends and family to turn to, who are able to share time with you either in person, on the phone or online is one thing. Tapping into those people is another. Organise time in advance so you are regularly in contact with people (even if you don’t feel like it) as most times, you’ll feel better afterward from being more connected. It’s too easy to retreat and not make contact because you don’t wish to bother others.
It can also be good to connect with some people who are going through the same experiences as you are. Consider connecting with other parents at school drop off, or wherever the opportunity presents. And, if you don’t want to discuss your circumstances with others, you are not alone. This is where seeking support from a counsellor or even joining forums or online groups where you can be anonymous may be helpful.
Just remember to be selective about where you spend this time, as some online groups can be more unhelpful than helpful. After all, you don’t want to find yourself immersed in negative environments.
Tip 3: Set Limits, Get Comfortable Saying “No”
There are all kinds of extra events and invitations at this time of year. While getting out and being around people can be a welcome distraction, it can also add to overwhelm and stress.
Think about saying no to some invitations so you can ensure you still get quality time with your children or time to yourself. Saying no can make a big difference when you’re feeling a bit wobbly, so don’t feel bad about it. Separation is a challenging time in people’s lives so if there’s any time you should be cutting back on anything, it’s now.
Similarly, setting boundaries around requests or demands from your child/ren’s other parent will be more important than ever. That being said, if you haven’t already, plan ahead for those special days so you are both clear on what is happening and your children are too. Most families know what is likely to be planned on certain days around Christmas and New Year, so settle on those plans as early as possible to avoid last minute changes.
That being said, being entirely inflexible can create more problems, so consider whether a slight change will really derail your plans or not. Because, being flexible to your ex can help when you might need flexibility at another point in time.
Which leads us to communication with your co parent…
When co parents further down the road than you reflect on their lessons in how to co parent successfully, many say it was ensuring they had early conversations to plan ahead that helped. Also, they say that allowing themselves some time to consider their responses in communications, along with getting advice from their family lawyer, led them to better outcomes and fostered a more positive co parenting relationship.
If you have difficulty saying no, or responding to some challenging communication from your former partner, giving yourself some time to respond can sometimes be best. Let them know that you’ll come back to them tomorrow/the next day with an answer so they’re not following you up. And, if it’s toxic, seek advice from a family lawyer so you can put a barrier between you at times, if needed.
If you are angry or upset, giving yourself some time to reply will help you avoid responding poorly, which can have significant impacts on your children and in any family law matters that might not yet be finalised.
If you’re reading this article and are yet to determine your parenting arrangements for the festive season or another special time of year, you can read more about how we recommend you approach these important conversations here.
Tip 4: Embrace Your Flexible Mindset
In addition to being somewhat flexible with your co parent where suitable, there will most likely be those days and celebrations that you won’t have with your chid/ren. This is where you will benefit from being flexible in a different way.
This might mean doing ‘Christmas Day’ on a different date. It may also mean creating new traditions. Be deliberate about putting some focus on the new and positive opportunities that this festive season can bring rather than focusing on what’s been lost.
While acknowledging change is important, focusing on making the most of those days you do have, is vital for your kids and you.
Not every day will be difficult, but certainly there will be emotional heaviness on the traditionally significant celebration days. So, if you haven’t already, start putting a plan in place for the days without the children, so you can keep busy and have something positive for you to look forward to.
Tip 5: Celebrate Your Progress
Change is difficult for everyone, your children and yourself included, so celebrate every small step you make on this journey in the early days. This includes celebrating those new or reintroduced activities that are good for your wellbeing. And don’t forget to notice the progress you’re making as a co parent too! It’s not easy and no one is perfect but progress is progress.
None of this is easy. So, even if you feel like you’re not making progress, be kind to yourself and speak kindly to yourself. There will be progress you or your children will be making, but you will have to make a point to look for it. If it helps, keep track of any progress, however small, in a journal.
Understanding How To Co Parent Successfully Starts With Self Care
So, as you can see, planning to take care of you now and through the festive season is just as important as any other plan you make for the holidays. By caring for yourself, which includes being flexible, you can be the best version of yourself for your child/ren and help to get them through the potential challenges they will face as they navigate the holidays and festive season in a new way.
Don’t forget to reach out for help from professionals if you need it. Getting help early, before you really need it, is always the best approach. Self care is not an indulgence, it’s a necessity and will put you on the best path to co parent successfully and for you to be able to move forward positively.
Related Articles: School Holidays & Christmas Arrangements For Separated Parents
Is this your first festive season as a separated parent?
Do you have concerns or questions that you need answers to?
We can help you wherever you are based in Sydney. We have three office locations – Penrith, Norwest & Sydney CBD – as well as phone and online consultations if preferred. Reach out to our team on 02 47 222 050.
Disclaimer: The content in this article provides general information however it does not substitute legal advice or opinion. Information is best used in conjunction with legal advice from an experienced member of our team.