Shelly Barnes: Tips for co-parenting during the holiday season

Shelly Barnes • Updated Dec 26, 2017 at 11:15 PM

The holidays have definitely arrived. This is often a time full of joy, but for some can bring stresses all of its own. Here are some tips 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. Children 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.

Co-parenting is hard, but keeping your children front and center will be helpful to maintain perspective. From my home to yours, I wish you all a joyful holiday season.

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 or 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.

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 programs contact Shelly Barnes at 615-444-9584 or [email protected] Barnes is an Extension agent for the University of Tennessee Extension in Wilson County.


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