Traditionally, holidays present an opportunity for family fun and relaxation or for conflict. Families tend to create their own hierarchy of preferred holidays. Work and vacation schedules have a major influence on whether certain holidays are important or not for a family. Once there is a divorce or a court order to manage child possession schedules, conflicts sometimes surface.
Court orders tend to create some arbitrary divisions of holidays, and sometimes that's the best approach because the parties just will not agree on anything. In a more mature environment, however, there are ways to minimize the conflict. With the 4th of July approaching, here's some tips to keep in mind to help maintain a peaceful holiday.
- Plan ahead. If you can work out plans well in advance, that will reduce everyone's stress. Waiting until the last minute probably means that plans have already be made by everyone and that someone will be unhappy about changing. While you may not be able to plan ahead all the time, it's always a good idea to start weeks or months ahead of the holiday. It will be easier to coordinate schedules and activities and to come up with alternatives.
- Keep things in perspective. Remember that holidays come around every year and that it's often easy to have family events on nearby dates, if the holiday “belongs” to someone else this year.
- Communicate. There are often ways to work things out if everyone can just talk directly — and nicely. Don't make assumptions about what other people are doing or about their motivations. Sometimes people get all upset thinking about something when the issues could be worked out by a discussion.
- Be respectful. No matter who has primary custody or what label is attached to a party, think about how you would like to be approached. Making demands or criticizing the other parent (or their family) or whining are not winning strategies. If you want a favor, be humble.
- Think about the kids. This shouldn't be a contest of wills between two adults. It shouldn't be a question of who has the superior “ownership” of a time period. Hopefully, any special requests made will really be a benefit for the children. If the parents will analyze the situation in light of the children's best interests, many fights can be avoided.
Reasonable parents should be able to work out conflicting holiday schedules if they approach the other parent as they would want to be approached. Keeping these suggestions in mind should give parties a good chance of resolving scheduling issues before the fireworks really begin!