Taking the Holiday High Road for Your Child's Sake
It's the holidays, and your ex (or soon-to-be-ex) is behaving insufferably. He's doing everything wrong, demanding to change the kids' schedule to accommodate his plans, spending exorbitant amounts on gifts for the children in an attempt to buy their love (knowing you can't do the same because - shocker! - he was late again with his child support, so you had to limit your generosity this year), and generally being a jerk. Or maybe your ex is a woman, and she's acting like she owns the children (again!) and you're just a random visitor in their lives to whom she grants the privilege of the occasional sleepover.
The holiday season can be a powder keg of emotions, at least in part because children take such joy in it. Every parent wants to witness the joy of the season with their children, but in a situation where their parents aren't together, time with the kids becomes a limited and hot commodity. Tempers flare, emotions run high, and you determine to make your ex pay for what he or she has done, so you strike back with a vengeance.
Meanwhile, as you're throwing your tantrum and exacting your revenge, unbeknownst to you, your children are somewhere having an anxiety attack. They're feeling torn between their parents. Custody conflicts get so heated that children can become afraid even to admit that they love the other parent and enjoy spending time with him or her.
My advice? Don't focus on the battle. Win the war! What war? The war of being a good parent. Take the high road for your children's sake. Don't involve them in your conflicts. Make them as comfortable and welcome as you can.
You chose to have children with the other parent. Your child didn't choose for you and the other parent to break up. Have mercy on the one person who has no control over the circumstances: your child.
I'm not saying you shouldn't hold the other parent accountable for behaving badly, but the appropriate venue for that is your lawyer's office, not in front of your child. Saying bad things about the other parent is all kinds of disorienting to a child. Just don't!
The holiday season is about love, joy, and generosity. Be generous with (and loving to!) your children by allowing them to stay out of it and just enjoy the holidays.
In 20 or so years, when they have children of their own, I bet they'll thank you for taking the high road.