The words to Graham Nash’s song from the 60s still ring true. The sentimental message of this song is a perfect touchstone for those of you who are trying to navigate the emotionally rocky waters which surround holiday parenting time. It can be challenging to manage shared parenting time during the holidays. It is even more difficult for those families with geographical and distance issues, blended families, and raw wounds of recent partings.
With challenges come opportunities. The opportunity is open to you to use the holidays as a time to “teach your children well” by role modeling positive interactions, kindness, and respect. October is a good time of year to think ahead and begin planning. Parents can try to keep the holidays a happy time for their children by avoiding conflicts. They can also work together to create schedules centered on their children.
Parents can also work separately to create meaningful new traditions in their own households. Part of the pain when a relationship ends is the loss of certain holiday traditions. Remember that your children are experiencing this loss too. New traditions can be created. However, you do not want these new traditions to be based in conflict and anger.
Change is Hard
None of this is easy. There may be new partners, step-families, many more schedules to coordinate, etc. That is why having a touchstone, “teach your children well,” may help you stay grounded. The lessons your children glean from the cooperation and selflessness shown by parents will last them a lifetime.
Later in the same song Nash goes on to acknowledge that children provide teaching moments for their parents. Think back to how many wonderful moments of pure joy your children have already given you. You have been able to rediscover the joys of the holidays through their eyes. Now, during this time of transition and building new traditions, you have choices to make. Will you support and nurture them? Or will you add to their burdens? Holidays can be wonderful occasions or they can be fraught with pain and tension. Only the two of you can decide.
As the holidays approach each year, you can choose, again, to teach your children well. “So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.” Let this focus help you to leave them with the best blessing you can ever give them: your example of cooperation and love as you create a schedule that puts them first.
David S. Rolfe
David S. Rolfe, L.L.C.