Guest Author - Caroline Henrich
The holidays can often be a stressful time, especially if you are divorced. Painful memories may overtake your thoughts. Sometimes there can also be anger and loneliness. If you have to exchange your children with your ex-spouse for all or part of the holidays, there will more likely than not be some amount of angst.
Remember that your children are the priority. As much as you may want to have your ex-spouse drive an extra hundred miles or have him or her wait an extra half hour, this will ultimately affect your children. Children are aware of stressful situations, even if there is no yelling. The holidays should be as stress free as possible for them and it is our duty as parents to ensure this is the case.
This is easier said than done. Very few divorced couples have the ability to always be cordial and smiling. Therefore it is inevitable that there will be some negative feelings towards your ex-spouse. These may be magnified during the holidays.
Therefore, in trying to make the exchange of your children as stress free as possible, you may need a plan. The following are some suggestions.
First review your court order so that you understand your legal obligations. If you have any questions, try to address them with your ex-spouse. Try to use e-mail so that you have a record. If you and your ex-spouse cannot communicate easily, call your attorney if you have questions on interpretation of the agreement or court order.
Once you understand the legalities, try to focus on reducing the confrontational aspect of the exchange. If you are seeing a counselor, discuss your emotional feelings with your professional and seek his or her guidance and support.
If you have a history of high conflict exchanges, you will most likely want to have someone present with you when you exchange the children. This person can assist in trying to keep the exchange civil and also be a witness in the event there are any issues. If the situation has a strong likelihood that it may escalate and become physical, call the police immediately.
Make an effort to be polite and do not make snide remarks or express hostility. Smile at your children and be civil to your ex-spouse. Please remember that even though you may think your former spouse is a jerk, your children still love both parents.
If your ex-spouse makes a stupid or snide remark, simply ignore it. You will show you are the better person and deny him or her the ability to see a negative reaction.
Please remember that this is key. You love your children and want them to be happy. You are the bigger person. This is one of the best presents you can give yourself and your children.