You’ve probably been there. You’re finally about to have that catch up with friends that you’ve been planning for weeks. And without explanation, your ex texts to say they’ll be three hours late to collect the kids. It’s hugely annoying. It’s also a common co-parenting values conflict. Connecting with your friends is important to you and so is caring for the kids.
Co-parenting can be complicated and school holidays can ramp up the pressure. Keeping your values at the forefront of your mind when making decisions about how to manage the holidays provides a good basis for creating a holiday experience that enriches life for both you and the kids.
What are values?
Values are like compass directions. They’re the principles that guide and inspire us to live a life that is uniquely meaningful to us. Ask yourself:
- Deep in your heart, what do you stand for?
- How do you want to relate to yourself, others and the world?
- Who do you want to be?
You know you’re in touch with your core values when it feels “right” to be heading down that path.
Values are directions not goals or rules or needs. They’re the moment-to-moment choices we make in how we behave to create our lives. We can use our values flexibly. For example, we may have values around fitness and looking after our health, but if we are asked to change our exercise schedule to take the kids earlier than expected we can choose to act in line with our values of love and caring.
Isn’t it complicated?
Yes! The relationship issues that led to your separation are possibly making it difficult to co-parent. Co-parenting can be like playing on a field where the rules keep changing. Family life is dynamic and changes all the time.
A key value shared by many, and based on research, is knowing that kids do best when they have safe and positive contact with both parents. Your personal values will help navigate the details of how to make this happen.
5 tips on how to use your values in the holidays:
- Plan ahead – Kids need to know and feel comfortable about what’s going on. What values do you have that support planning ahead – for the kids, your ex and yourself? If values such as fairness (to yourself and others), flexibility and order are important to you, consider how to behave in line with these values when negotiating with your ex rather than getting stuck with rules and “must dos”.
- Communicate – with your ex and the kids, to create safe and positive holidays. Values such as co-operation, open-mindedness, connection and patience can guide us in planning holidays and staying in touch when the kids are away. What matters to you in your communication? How do you want to relate to the world?
- Be flexible – stuff will happen. Humour, forgiveness and generosity could be useful values to express when the unexpected affects your holiday. How will your behaviour be guided?
- Create new traditions – are the kids getting bored towards the end of a long break? Do you value adventure, responsibility, or challenge? What new traditions can you create to truly live your values? Is the adventure camping in the backyard or in the outback? Express your values in the way that is most meaningful to you.
- Practice compassion – it can be tough when the kids are away from you during the holidays, or when you don’t get a break. What values can you practice to look after yourself? Acceptance? Authenticity? Self-care?
“Your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi