No matter how carefully you plan, no matter how good your relation with your ex is, there will be times when you have to find a resolution to a scheduling conflict.
In my last installment, we talked about the importance of establishing holiday routines with your children to give them a since of continuity as they are growing up.
This time, let’s talk about what it takes to work around times when you are both wanting the same holiday with your children. Obviously, one of you will have to give in. Let’s not make a big deal out of it, shall we?
Listen, as the years go by, the important thing is your continued presence in your child’s life, and one holiday isn’t going to make the difference. Keep that in mind as you negotiate. By the same token, it isimportant to give your children routines that they are comfortable and familiar with. One of these is keeping holiday schedules intact. Though it isn’t critical to adhere to strictly, it is definitely a good idea to keep a comfortable schedule your children are familiar with when possible. Giving your kids routines around the holidays (and frankly, around just about any recurring activities in their lives) provides them a sense of comfort and security.
So, let’s say you both want to spend the 4th of July taking your kids to see fireworks. What can you do?
Well, the most obvious first question is; do you already have a set routine between your ex and yourself concerning this holiday?
For example’s sake here, we are going to assume that she normally has custody on this holiday. So, obviously, you’re disturbing the routine in your request. So, be certain to ask yourself how important is it that you get the kids? Do you just want to spend time with them on a date you normally don’t, or is there a really good reason to ask your ex to shift schedules (family in town, great deal on a houseboat, special activities for the kids, vacations, etc…)
If you really do believe that the children will benefit more from time with you than from their established previous routines on this holiday, then you certainly want to proceed with careful negotiation.
I feel the first fair proposal to make your ex is to see if you and she can both spend time with the kids on the holiday. Honestly, this makes a huge impact over the years when kids can see their parents interacting civilly without malice (of course, this isn’t always easy, and sometimes impossible. It really depends upon your relationship with your ex. I hope it’s a good one, for your children’s sake, and your sanity).
If it is already established that you and your ex will not share time together, then there is no point in trying that route. Concerning the children, the real question is what will make the most sense. If you know that having the kids will best benefit them, then I suggest you do your best to argue your position with your ex. Explain how they will benefit, and be willing to make a counter offer.
Perhaps if you take them for Independence Day, your ex will take them for the Labor Day weekend when you would normally have them?
When working with your ex towards finding schedules that will work for the both of you, compromise is key. (Mostly, your compromise.)
Remember, the goal is to find the best experience for your kids. Though you may have ideas of how you want your holidays, you will have to negotiate in most cases. Always try to keep the conversation focused on the resolution, not your personal wants or desires.
Again, try to keep a bigger picture in mind. Swapping holidays is really pretty common among single parents, and unless you have some type of stipulation either clearly defining each holiday or clearly stating your rights, then there is going to be room for redefining your holiday scheduling.
I have mentioned this previously, and it bears repeating; the farther ahead you can plan holidays with your kids, the easier it will be on all involved.
The sooner you are aware of the need to change an existing schedule, the better the chances of getting it accomplished. Use your first available opportunity to communicate with your ex what you would propose for a change, and be willing to make concessions. Remember, anything that isn’t already defined is going to be a disruption for her, so keep that in mind as you ask.
Perhaps you can even better the odds that you can have your scheduling request granted if you begin by making a concession first. If you know you want your kids for one holiday, perhaps you can come up with ways that taking them will actually look like support of your ex. Just being willing to work with her will can a difference.
Next week, we’ll look at some more strategies for garnering support for changing holiday patterns and a few ways to increase good rapport with your ex.
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