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Co-parenting & the Holidays: 5 Expert Tips for Navigating the Season With Teens

November 30, 20233 min read

Co-parenting & the Holidays: 5 Expert Tips for Navigating the Season With Teens

‘Tis the season to be jolly…but truth be told, sometimes planning for the holidays makes us feel more stressed than blessed. Navigating the holiday season as a newly divorced family can be extremely challenging — especially when you have emotionally-charged teenagers in the mix. With so many layers and moving parts, it’s important to acknowledge everyone’s feelings, but you also need to figure out how to prioritize everyone’s needs appropriately. Here are our top tips for getting through this season without turning into a grinch.

Establish clear boundaries: Figuring out how to plan the holidays when there are so many competing factors can be incredibly challenging, and your teens might try to take advantage of this chaos by pushing their desires to the top of the priority list. Start things off by setting clear boundaries for everyone, but especially your teens. Nobody is going to get everything they want this holiday season — it’s important that everyone realizes that! Your teens might try to push back with tears or anger, but as a parent your job is to keep things very clear, concise, and consistent. They might be mad, but ultimately they’re going to be better equipped to eventually move forward with the plan you’ve set out because you’ve maintained firm boundaries.

Prioritize who needs to be served first: You know that you can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure your potential plans meet your core needs, first and foremost. You need to prioritize yourself as the top tier. In the second tier comes your former partner, as well as any new partner or blended family you may have. Your teens come next — and once you’ve actually established your first few rounds of priorities, you can bring your teens into the planning process. Bring out the calendars and let them have a say in making a few choices that you’re able to give them control over.

Communicate the plan clearly: Once you have your plan in place, make sure it’s communicated clearly to everyone involved, including extended family members. Write everything down so that all boundaries and plans are documented to avoid future misunderstandings and drama. Digital shared calendars like Google or iCal can be a really useful tool here, but if you’re old-school, just make sure that everyone’s paper calendars are updated properly.

Stay strong, and don’t accept bad behaviours: Adjusting to new holiday plans can be emotional for everyone, but especially for teens who may be taking these changes harder than most. While it’s important to acknowledge their feelings and what they’re going through, you need to remember not to take everything they say personally during this process. Just like you, they’re working through complicated feelings — but as they’re still young, their brains aren’t as developed as yours is. You can acknowledge their feelings without accepting poor behaviours — you don’t need to let yourself be a punching bag for your kids. Remember the kind of human you’re raising them to be. So, respect their feelings, but keep holding them to those standards.

Embrace the chaos: Remember that even for nuclear families, the holidays can be chaotic! Accept that this season of your lives is going to be one of change and chaos, and instead of fighting against it, work on honing your problem-solving and decision-making skills to help your family grow stronger through it.

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Alicia Robertson

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