Shelly Barnes: Advice for co-parenting during the holidays

Shelly Barnes • Updated Nov 23, 2016 at 7:00 PM

Here come the holidays. This is often a time full of joy, but for some can bring stresses all of its own. Here are some tips from Dr. Heather Wallace, University of Tennessee Extension specialist in family and consumer sciences, to help separated parents navigate this time of year.

• Let children be children – Experiencing the excitement of the season through school and community events, sharing time together, and family traditions should be the central focus. Avoid burdening children with issues you have personally or with their other parent.

• Know your own feelings – Find a few moments to reflect and identify your own feelings. Recognizing how you feel gives you the power to better control your reactions.

• Have fun – Make new traditions. Traditions don’t have to cost money…simple things like reading a story or playing a game together can be special. Be silly and laugh. Kids love fun.

• Take care of yourself – Taking a moment to breathe and center yourself can make all of the difference before responding to what could be a frustrating situation. Try free apps like “Breathe” or “Calm” to start.

• Plan ahead – Be specific with your child’s other parent about dates, times and who will get which gifts.

Most of all, though, let your children love their other parent, too. Your relationship with the other parent may have ended, but it did not for your child/children. To do this, avoid trash talking and communicating through your child. Instead, use techniques such as “I-messages” to clearly communicate with the other parent. For example, “I feel frustrated when the schedule changes at the last minute. Can we work together to make things work for all of us?” If that is not possible, then try using communication methods that reduce in-person or phone conversations like email, text or notes.

For additional information, Wallace recommends Dr. Don Gordon’s article at divorce-education.com, which served as a source for her recommendations.

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state and provides equal opportunities in all programming and employment. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.

For more information on this or other family and consumer sciences related topics, contact Shelly Barnes, family and consumer sciences extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County. Barnes may be reached [email protected] or 615-444-9584.

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