During the holidays, we look forward to spending time with family and loved-ones. The season is full of opportunities to make wonderful memories, but it can also be a stressful time, particularly for co-parents and blended families. Parents in a healthy relationship (regardless of romantic involvement) should feel safe to express themselves and respect each other’s opinions, while being able to resolve conflicts without anger. Both parents need honest, open communication for the benefit of their children.
Our February 2014 Fatherhood Buzz highlighted the building blocks to healthy relationships. Here are some of those building blocks with a holiday twist.
Communication: Practice active listening. Changes in routines and regular schedules can leave a lot of room for miscommunication. When making plans, repeat what has been said in your own words, making sure you heard correctly. When creating plans for your child during the holidays, you should consider putting the plan in writing and sharing it with your partner so that everyone is sure that they are in agreement.
Conflict resolution without anger: Respectfully acknowledge the other person’s feelings and opinions. When discussing issues, use statements that clearly state your concerns but avoids language that expresses criticism or content. Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s ‘Raising Your Child Together’ handbook provides practical tips on using healthy communication.
Don’t Point Fingers: Accept personal responsibilities rather than assigning blame. Working on reframing a situation can help you managing your stress levels, have more positive interactions with your co-parent, and set a positive example for your children. For example, if your co-parent is late for a drop off because of holiday traffic, try to focus on the fact that they arrived safely, and acknowledge that the trip must have been stressful for them.
React with Kindness: Children and parents respond positively to kindness and courtesy. This isn’t always easy to do, especially when you may be upset. Practicing healthy ways to manage your stress on an ongoing basis can help you keep calm and react in a positive way when something unexpected happens. Consider some of these tips from the National Resource Center for Healthy Marriage and Families on ways to manage stress: go for a walk or exercise; meditate; get a good night’s sleep; and, talk to someone, like a close friend or a professional counselor.
Here are a few additional resources that can help you through your co-parenting challenges any time of the year:
- Call the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse Hotline: 1- 877-4DAD411 [1-877-432-3411]
- Note: Anyone can call. We have resources for dads, moms, and family members.
- Find a local fatherhood help program using the NRFC Connect with Programs directory.
- Share your successes and tips with other parents on our Facebook page.
National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse