We are in the thick of holiday season and as always, I hope it's going smoothly and with minimal stress for you. Hanukkah is behind us with Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year's right around the corner. Because Christmas is just one day, it is often a tough one for parents to share. Maybe one parent has Christmas Eve and the other parent has Christmas Day. Maybe you share the day. Maybe you alternate so the children are exchanged on a completely different day like the 26th or after. Any way you slice it, there needs to be a plan in place ahead of time so both households can make plans and manage expectations.
Now, is the perfect time to check in with your co-parent to make sure everyone is on the same page with plans for the children - especially if you're still getting used to this whole co-parenting thing. You may be absolutely certain that the exchange time is 12:00pm on the 25th. But maybe in the emotional flurry of divorce your co-parent forgot a detail and thinks the exchange is 2:00pm? Or what if something has come up with either of your extended families and the time needs to be tweaked? Now is the perfect time to check in and be sure you're all clear.
Oh, you despise your ex and can't fathom having to communicate at all right now? I mean, you've got it straight, of course, so if they have it wrong, well that's their problem, right? Wrong. Their scheduling mistake will most definitely affect you and very well may ruin your good mood on a happy day. As much as you might not want to, it may help prevent a nuclear explosion if you reach out to confirm plans. Try to use softening language like "I'm just double checking" or "I just want to make sure we're on the same page." This can make it sound less like you're assuming that they have it wrong or are going to mess it up (even if you are) and can help them to not feel defensive. If you've talked about plan on the phone, following up with an email or text can help clarify because then it's in writing for you both to refer back.
If you see a scheduling squeeze on the horizon like your mother is now bringing her sister, aunt and the new widow from church all for dinner but they can't be on the road after dark so you need to serve early so it would be really helpful if you could exchange the children one hour earlier. Just one hour, it would really help a lot. Please? Now is the perfect time to ask you ex if they can accommodate you. This gives them time to consider it without being rushed and reactionary. If you are asking for this kind of favor, keep in mind it is a favor that you are asking of them, which means they have the right to say no. In addition to giving them time to consider your request, the way you ask it is also important, of course. "I have a favor to ask," or "Can I run something by you to see if it's okay on your end," or something like that clearly puts the the favor where it belongs. This can really make it easier for them to say yes.
Both of these techniques - giving plenty of time to consider the plans or request and using softening language - can be helpful not just around the holidays but also during regular weekly or monthly scheduling plans. No matter what happened to get you where you are as co-parents, now it's all about the kid and doing your best to ease their stress during these transitions. As hard as it might be to work this stuff out with someone you can't stand, keep in mind how hard it is for your child to emotionally navigate all the back and forth. Try to take care of business now so all everyone sees this season is stuffed stockings, flying reindeer, and sugarplum fairies. Happy Holidays!