Navigating your way through many years of a co-parenting relationship with your former partner when you have young kids is often one of the most difficult challenges clients face when dealing with the fall out of their separation. A particular source of stress and tension is coming to the realization that you may not get to spend every holiday that is special to you with your children. With Mother’s Day around the corner, I would like to share some tips that I give my clients surrounding etiquette and best practices around Mother’s and Father’s Day.
- Do your best to remember the date!
- Mother’s and Father’s Day is a day for parents to get a little bit of extra love and admiration than they may or may not get during the go-go of everyday life. Children love taking these days to do something a little bit extra for their parents, whether its arts and crafts made at school, a poem or a story, a lovely speech, an adorable music and dance performance, a thoughtful gift with their allowance or birthday money, or anything else. As much as kids love doing these things, they will most likely need reminding that the day is fast approaching.
- I invite clients to remind their kids the date is coming, to ensure the kids have something planned for the other parent, and to assist their kids with getting the gift or gesture put together. If the other parent is out of town or does not live locally, set up a Facetime call or someway for your children to connect with them. You may get no credit or appreciation for helping out and the other parent may never even know you helped out, but these things go along away. These days are not only special for the other parent, but they are also special for the kids. Encouraging your children to have a strong and loving relationship with their other parent will have long lasting positive impacts on them and they will always remember that even though you are not together, you made them feel like both of their parents were important, and good people deserving of admiration.
- Take the high road.
- This piece of advice applies particularly to people who are early on in their co-parenting relationship when the tensions and conflict can be at their highest. Try to avoid discussing any high conflict topics with the other parent around these days. If you have young children and you know Mother’s or Father’s day is important to them, don’t take that away from them. These days only come once a year, and parents get a limited amount of years to have these extra special days when the kids are young. Put the children’s interests first. No matter how much conflict and ill will exist, if you can accommodate it, let the other parent have some meaningful time with the children on these special days. You won’t regret ensuring your children got to have these special memories, whether you like their other parent or not.
- Say kind things about the other parent around your children, especially around these days. Young children have such a positive image of their parents and look up to them adoringly. Don’t ruin that for them. Saying rude and disparaging things about the other parent to your children is not going to change that image in the children’s minds. It is only going to upset them, and potentially push them to look at you differently when they are older. I always tell my clients who are co-parenting, do everything it takes to take the high road. The kids will remember you did, and thank you for it later. If they don’t thank you, you will feel a lot better about yourself for protecting their innocence.
- Don’t use these days as a bargaining chip in your separation.
- For the reasons I have already listed, do not use whether or not the other parent will get to see the children on Mother’s or Father’s day as a bargaining chip to get what you want or get the upper hand in negotiations. Put the children first, don’t make the children’s experiences about you. This goes hand in hand with taking the high road. Do not threaten to take away Mother’s or Father’s day from the other parent if you aren’t getting along or are upset. Co-parenting is hard enough, neither parent deserves to feel increased stress around these positive days. Our bodies and minds remember the past and brace themselves accordingly. By not adding any stress of conflict to these days with the other parent, you are building important foundational support for your co-parenting relationship.
Keeps these days as happy days and let your children focus on the parent they are celebrating. Your day is coming next!