Step Family Vacations...A Scheduling Nightmare! Start Planning Your Summer Now.
Just thinking about it makes my brain hurt - negotiating a schedule change to accommodate a family vacation or upcoming event...even your child's medical appointment or an extracurricular activity! Managing the schedule of a shared child can be stressful and frustrating. Unfortunately, I don't have any easy solutions (this is tough stuff!); however, there are a few basic guidelines that can be quite helpful:
- For the sake of the kid(s), do your best to avoid unnecessary schedule changes whenever possible. Most kids feel secure when routines are predictable and uninterrupted.
- Always remember to get agreement from your ex before sharing potential plans with your child. Telling Johnny you're taking him to Disneyland or maybe just a weekend of camping before you've secured the necessary schedule change could easily backfire. Instead, wait until you've got the green light so you can prevent anger, disappointment and possibly putting your ex (and yourself) in a difficult position with the child.
Thriving in Conflict
Of course, if your ex is reasonable and willing to roll with schedule adjustments, your life will be much easier...but if that's not the case here are a few tips to help keep your sanity intact as the headaches of scheduling emerge:
- Resist the urge to procrastinate. If you're like me, you'll put off the dreaded task of approaching this subject altogether, especially if you've been met with hostility and resistance in the past. Nonetheless, the sooner the better. Last minute requests have the appearance of disrespect and add pressure to the situation.
- Attitude is everything! Think about how you would like to be approached with a scheduling issue...probably not with an entitled or demanding tone. A respectful request along with ample time to consider and respond will make your appeal easier to swallow (and will also foster a peaceful co-parenting relationship).
- Learn to graciously accept a "No" without evoking a dispute. Remember that you are not in a position to control your ex's decisions. So rather than allowing hostility and resentment to ensue, choose to let it go. You too have the freedom to say no to scheduling change requests. But, keep in mind that an ex will most likely be flexible only to the extent that you are.
Score all "A's"
Probably the healthiest approach we can take is to simply recognize that schedules will conflict regardless of our best efforts. Kids living in dual homes will inevitably miss out on fun activities in both homes & may in turn feel left out or disappointed. Parents will also be hurting when children are absent from significant occasions due to scheduling conflicts. What is helpful when heartache sets in?
- Acknowledge your child's feelings and listen with empathy to their perspective - but avoid going into 'fix-it' mode
- Assure your child that you're doing your best to include them whenever possible
- Abstain from placing blame or badmouthing the other home in front of the child
- Avoid getting stuck in negativity - process your feelings with a trusted adult (not your child)
- Accept that the circumstances are difficult and sometimes disappointing, but do what you can to move forward
I will offer you some hope! Managing your family's desired schedule while respecting the other home can be challenging and compromises will need to be made. But we can make meaningful progress as we work towards peaceful solutions that meets everyone's needs…hopefully, most of the time. Don't let frustration get the best of you…avoid the headache and try a new approach to negotiating and coping with scheduling conflicts.
QUESTION: Which of the 5 A's are you challenged by the most? Leave a comment below: