One of the most difficult decisions parents face at separation is working out how the children will spend their holidays and special occasions.
With Mother’s Day quickly approaching, if you are newly separated or do not have a parenting agreement in place you may be asking yourself “How do I get my ex to agree to time with my kids?”.
No parent likes the thought of being separated from your child on a special occasion. However, because of the emotional aspects, this is a subject that parents struggle with and often results in conflict.
Most frequently these matters are in your parenting agreement, but if not, here are some options to think about. When negotiating with your ex it is important to try and be creative, open, and find simple solutions to what you are seeking to achieve.
Remember, whatever happened in your marriage cannot be undone. However what happens in the time after separation is yours to choose.
Further reading: What single mums do on Mother’s Day: The hilarious reality.
How to negotiate with you ex about Mother’s Day
Kids come first
Although it is natural to assume that your kids would want to spend Mother’s Day with you, think about it first to be sure. Consider how they might feel about it especially if it involves changing weekends and routines. Your kids may be involved in sports, study deadlines or have other weekend plans that may be more important to them at this time of their lives. It may difficult to accept, but it does occur. Try not to take it personally, it may just be easier for all involved to celebrate on another day. It is better to think about these things first and prior to negotiating with your ex.
Always be clear what you are doing for yourself and what you’re doing for your kids. Do not do things “for the sake of the children” as it may only disguises your true intent. It’s not about martyrdom or even doing the right thing. It’s about you not wanting to regret what you do now in the future. It’s about not creating a situation in which your children could ever second-guess your motives in their family life, and your stake in it.
Try to keep it in perspective, it’s only one day, you’re their Mum for life.
Setting the Tone
Before discussing the matter with your ex, set the tone. This is not a situation where one of you wins and one of you loses. By approaching the conversation as an argument, it will be just that, and everyone will lose. It’s okay to think of it as a problem, but think of it as a problem that can only be solved by working together, then ultimately everyone wins, especially the kids. Often how you ask for something is more important than what you’re asking for. Stop, breathe and think about the best possible way to ask for Mother’s Day with the kids.
Set the tone inside your head, when dealing with a difficult ex. It is often easy to get frustrated and lose your temper especially if you and your ex are not on good terms. Act like an adult, like the adult you would want your children to grow into. Stop yourself from responding defensively, the last thing you want is to be goaded into an argument that will get you nowhere.
If you feel your emotions getting the better of you, it is okay to take a moment to collect yourself. Concentrate on bringing yourself into a more calm state. Practice deep breathing, count to ten before you speak, whatever works. Be someone who can look past their emotions to see what is right and fair, and can hold their tongue even when the other cannot.
How to negotiate with your ex to see your kids on Mother’s Day (cont.)
Try to think about your ex and if the change could impact their life in a negative way. Consider if there is a reason they may not want to accommodate your Mother’s Day request, and be prepared to assist with a solution. Remind your ex about how the children will benefit from the seeing you on Mother’s Day and then reciprocate on Father’s Day.
The Golden Rule may sound old fashion in today’s world, but it can go a long way. Are you consistently and regularly acting toward your ex in the way that you long your ex to act toward you? If your ex asks, do you automatically say no? If you are as a matter of principal against your ex it disadvantages all involved. This can require both discipline and compassion. There is nothing sadder than watching a parent railing about the vindictiveness or insensitivity of their ex, if they themselves regularly behave in the same uncivilised way.
Remember that you and your ex are always modelling for your child’s future behaviour. You do not want them to feel like they are in the middle of a game of tug-of-war. If they witness hurtful behaviour between their own parents, they will hurt others. You will shape the way they will treat their own future partners.
Respect the Ex
Respect your ex’s points of view, even if they are very different from your own. Remember your ex is YOUR ex, not your child’s, so respect their relationship. Even when it’s not reciprocated, respect the role your ex plays in your child’s life. This can be especially difficult when respect is one sided.
Become clear as to which problems are yours and which are your ex’s. You cannot control their behaviour only your own. Do what is necessary to assist with the request. Be creative and willing to trade off, divide and rotate to make up for the time your child will be spending with you.
You should also communicate with your ex to make sure all other details about Mother’s Day are covered. Try to anticipate any objection they may have and have an answer ready. If your child will need appropriate clothing for dinner out, a Mother’s Day gift to give, secure transportation, anticipate it. Do not assume the other parent is taking care of it all. For your kid’s sake, communicate!
If your conversation fails or an agreement falls apart, it does not mean that all is lost. Often it takes ex’s months to come to an agreement on even minor matters. Consider writing business-like letters or e-mails if talking directly is too difficult. Kid logs or online sites such as Our Children can be used as a tool to create civil exchanges when face to face communication is at an impasse.
If your ex is completely unreasonable about your plans for Mother’s Day, assistance in discussing arrangements with the other parent may be necessary. Dispute resolution services, such as a counselling service or Family Dispute Resolution are not just for final agreements. They can be used as ongoing tools for parents who are unable to communicate.
With communications between all parties and respect for the other parent, you might find that some unnecessary burdens are happily relieved. Having the chance to be with your child on that Mother’s Day will make it all worthwhile.