Nov 08 2022
With the holidays comes a certain amount of tension. As a matter of fact, 88% of Americans find the holiday season to be one of the most stressful times of the year! It gets even harder when you’re trying to manage a blended family and can lead to bad behavior like badmouthing.
Often, with all of the added stressors of the holidays, parents aren’t on their best behavior. They’re worn down from holiday shopping, decorations, parties, work, work engagements, and the cold and dreary weather.
Under enough stress, they snap. They may resort to “less than ideal” behavior. Badmouthing (among other types of stress-related behavior) is bad for the children (and the family dynamic as a whole).
Read on to learn how to avoid it.
It’s no secret that the holidays are going to bring with them some serious stressors. You already know this, so start preparing weeks (if not more) ahead of time.
This is a great time to start journaling, practicing self-care (more on that later), and potentially talking to someone about your concerns. Talk to your counselor about how you’re feeling and some worries you have about how the holidays will go.
Don’t leave room for surprises.
If you’re going to be sending your child(ren) from one home to another, know exactly how the pick-up and drop-off will go. Plan a time and location so you can prepare both yourself and your family.
You should also plan the unrelated details of your holiday ahead of time. The better-prepared you are, the less stressed you’ll be. That will make it easier for you to stay on good behavior.
While you’re preparing, try to consider any potential events that could trigger an emotional response. Not reacting poorly in the moment is a challenge for anyone, and it’s understandable that stress would make it even more difficult.
Consider potential scenarios that could come up. Whether it’s a fight between you (or a family member) and your co-parent, someone being late for pick-up or drop-off, or snide comments, it’s good to know how you plan to respond in a healthy way.
Try to find self-care and stress-relief methods on the days and weeks leading up to the holidays.
You’re likely going to be busy with holiday preparations, but do what you can to take breaks every now and again. Give yourself an at-home spa day, let a babysitter or family member watch the kids, go see a movie with friends, or find one of the countless other opportunities to remove yourself from your stressors for just a few hours.
Consider talking to a therapist if you don’t already. It’s not uncommon for people to only see therapists during times of stress. With a therapist, you can also “badmouth” your former partner as much as you’d like to in a safe and harmless environment.
Your therapist may also be able to help you re-route those negative thoughts into something more positive.
If it’s possible to do so, work together with your co-parent to make the situation as relaxing as possible.
If you plan on spending time together, that’s amazing! Not everyone can do that, so that’s a great thing you’re doing for your child. You also know it can be even more frustrating than just doing a pick-up and drop-off, however.
Plan ahead. Talk about things on the “not to do” list that you can both avoid to prevent any unnecessary tension. Talk about topics that you won’t bring up.
Consider coming up with a “cue” that you can use to tell the other parent that you need to go take a break. You can both use this non-verbal cue if you’re feeling your tempers rise.
If you’re spending most of the time apart, you should still collaborate. Talk to your former partner about what you will and will not say around the children. Remember, this is not your child’s problem.
This seems simple, but it’s tougher than you think during a stressful time.
Always take a second to breathe before you react to something upsetting. Often, our mouths move faster than our brains! Give yourself a moment to think before you say something you regret.
It’s always better to be silent than to badmouth.
This is a tough one!
Many parents are fantastic at avoiding overt badmouthing, but they may dip into passive aggression when they’re feeling upset. It’s totally understandable during stressful holidays, but it’s not as subtle as you think it is.
Children can pick up on passive aggression, so you’re not hiding your badmouthing by making it more subtle. Your co-parent will also pick up on it and it could make the situation worse.
If you have a problem, excuse yourself and your co-parent and speak directly.
At the end of the day, all you can do is focus on the joy of the holiday. You want to create the best holiday experience for your child (and yourself), so make the most of it.
Yes, it’s stressful. Yes, your co-parent may irritate you or do something you don’t expect. You may do the same to them without realizing it!
Try to get into the holiday spirit anyway. Focus on what’s good.
While the holidays can bring out the worst in us, badmouthing is never the answer. Practice self-care, see a counselor, prepare ahead of time, and consider the other recommendations on our list.
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