Holiday Visitation Cancelled?
The holidays have passed and unfortunately not everybody goes unscathed. The reality is that not all parents can co-parent and dealing with an ex that makes everything high conflict will make certain situations out of our control. Navigating uncharted territories when dealing with an issue is intimidating, throw in the mix a child, it then turns into a paralyzing fear because we don't want to scar our children.
A reader recently shared her dilemma with me, it's important to share this for many reasons, however the top 2 being;
1. You are not alone going through this.
2.. How important it is to be truthful with our children, being non confrontational with your ex and explaining to your child why your ex did not take their visitation.
Here's a portion of the letter, "Hello Kat, I'm furious and hurting for my child. My ex was supposed to come and get our daughter for Christmas Eve. I called him to confirm the time and he said he isn't coming. He's going to be celebrating with his wife and her family... In the custody order Christmas Day is my day but he is harassing me, telling me I need to let him see her tomorrow. My daughter is devastated and says she doesn't want to see him, she's nine. Should I consider his pestering or should I avoid his calls and texts? Should I talk to my daughter and try to convince her to see her dad tomorrow? I'm lost...".
In an ideal world, dad would have called earlier asked to speak to their child and explained directly that they couldn’t make it. Mom would have had a heads up and both parents could have worked something out. However in this case the high conflict parent created havoc and the backlash could be detrimental to their child.
Parents have to advocate for their children, we have to set precedence in how we allow others to treat our kids, this includes the other parent. If we allow our child to be shoved aside as an afterthought, our childrens mindset will be programmed to believe that it's normal to be pushed back.
As parents we don't have any control in whether the other parent will choose to exercise their visitation. The one thing we do have possession over is ourselves and how we respond. Since you're dealing with high conflict co-parenting with your ex, be firm, show no emotion, be concise and most of all refer back to the custody agreement.
I will repeat this one more time, do not let your emotions come into play. I know you're hurting for your child but you need to have a clear mind, strategically foresee the end result, that's to have your child feel secure and loved.
How you can help your child process the situation is by not saying one negative word about the other parent. Children are truly brilliant and insightful. Give your child the chance to talk to you, express their emotions. Kids view themselves as an extension of their parents, don't say any disparaging remarks regarding your ex because your child will directly think and feel you are talking about them as well. Keep the situation on hand honest but positive while demonstrating love and empathy towards your child.
Let your children know that their father (or mother) loves them however love isn't always shown the same way by everyone. She's not loved any less even though right now it might feel like that. Give your child an example, "Daughter, you got a D on your science project and I was disappointed but that didn't and nor does it mean that I love you any less."
Doing what's best for our children isn't always what benefits them in the moment. Dealing with high conflict parent, you have to stand your ground, be polite and go by the court order. The parent needs to understand that there are consequences. It means that the other parent can't scramble to fix the problem that was created by the other person. Do not ever lie to your child, this is the fastest way for respect to be lost between parent and child.
I recommend you email your ex if they are requesting a response, state clearly when the next visitation is scheduled per the custody agreement, keep it simple, black and white. No explanations, no blame game, no punishment, no name calling and no condescending back handed comments.
Just remember, if you're honest with your child, don't bad mouth your ex and maintain civility, you're setting an example. You're showing respect, compassion and understanding even though it’s not being reciprocated, our children need constant reassurance that we are ok and in turn they will be safe and loved. Our childrens mental health comes at a high price for certain parents, pay that toll, deal with your ex because your child needs you to.