Today’s post is penned by one of our excellent family law attorneys in Atlanta, Cherese Clark.
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled, restless in their beds
While memories of quarrels danced through their heads
Momma yelling from her corner and dad shouting from his,
No harmony in this house, no Christmas bliss.
When up from the living room there arose such a clatter,
Children sprang from the beds to see what was the matter.
Across their floor they flew like a flash,
Jerked open the door just to witness the clash……””
………The clash of their parents, the titans.
Practicing family during the holidays is equivalent to a doctor being on call for the ER, trauma and triage. However it doesn’t have to be. Keeping a family that is on the brink of divorce intact during the holidays is not impossible. It simply requires discipline and self control.
A common mistake of divorcing or separated parents is allowing their emotions to overtake their logical reasoning. Each parent wants the best for their children as they await the gifts of St. Nicholas and a new year to turn the page but many do not know how to avoid the fighting.
Here are a few tips for families working through the holidays amid adversity:
1. Reflect: think about the real issue. Nine times out of ten, the fight is not about shoes in the floor or who left the light on in the kitchen. The fight is really about an issue that has not been resolved and is now manifesting in smaller situations. Be honest with yourself about what the issue is so you can act smart when fixing the problem.
2. Rave: Use a non threatening and non verbal medium to get your thoughts out as they emerge during your reflection stage. For example, journal or draft an email (without sending it to anyone) and articulate your thoughts as they come to you. That way no one can interrupt you, no one can judge you, and most importantly your children are not caught in the cross fire.
3. R&R: Take a day (or two. .. longer if you need it) to review what you wrote and see how better to rephrase your thoughts so that they will be better received. Remember, your audience is your co-parent. Rephrase with the golden rule in mind- do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
4. Relay: once you rephrase your reflection, it is time to relay. Relay your message in the best way and manner that reduces conflict, especially in front of your children. Many people choose text or email. That way the response to your relay won’t produce a visceral reaction in you.
5. Retreat: Actively listen to the other’s response and begin afresh from a place of calm self reflection on how to be a better you and better co-parent for your children.
Practicing family law, we all know that conflict is seldom easy and is greatly heightened by the stress of the holidays. Hopefully, this advice will help your family while in the midst of adversity learn to better cope and manage a routinely difficult situation.