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How to Negotiate the Holiday Schedule You Want

Learn How to Argue Effectively and Reach an Agreeable Compromise

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It can be difficult to negotiate with your ex over you children's holiday schedule. In fact, it may well be one of the most contentious disagreements you have over the course of the calendar year. Use the following steps to argue your point effectively and reach a compromise you can both live with.

1. Check With Your Agreed-Upon Parenting Plan Before Consulting Your Ex

The first thing that you need to do is check your parenting plan, so that you will know, for sure, what plan you already agreed to for your family's holiday schedule. If you don't have a formal parenting plan in place, think back to any conversations you've already had about this year's holiday schedule, as well as what the two of you have done in past years.

2. Be Prepared to Accept a "Yes" or a "No"

Recognize that your request to change the agreed-upon schedule is just that--a request. You may or may not get your wish, and approaching any discussion of the matter with a true spirit of negotiation means also being willing to accept a "yes" or "no" answer.

3. Identify What You Really Want

Being too general about your request, or arguing about the holiday schedule just so that your ex doesn't get his or her way, will work against you. Decide up front what it is that you specifically want. Is there a family party during your kids' holiday vacation that you'd really like them to attend? Has a family member given you tickets for a performance you'd like to bring the kids to? In order to effectively negotiate a change in your holiday schedule, you must identify what it is that you really want.

4. Communicate Your Goals Clearly

Be honest with your ex. Being vague about your request, or trying to hide the real reason why you're asking for a schedule change, does nothing to help the two of you establish a pattern of positive negotiations with one another. So be prepared to lay your issue specifically: "My sister scheduled our family holiday party during one of your regular weekends. Could we swap dates, or could I take them just for a few hours on that day?"

5. Ask Your Ex to Do the Same

Earnestly asking the question, "What is your goal?" or "What is most important to you?" shows that you respect your ex and value the time he or she spends with the children. This type of open, selfless communication is an important part of effectively negotiating a holiday schedule you can both live with.

6. Calmly Discuss Each of Your Desires

Don't dismiss what your ex is saying or decide for yourself that his or her request is less important than yours. In fact, being able to say, "I realize that date is important to you," can go a long way toward your ex feeling like you've truly heard what he or she is saying, and that, in and of itself, is going to make your negotiations more effective.

7. Factor in Recent Adjustments to Your Visitation Schedule

Ask yourself how often you've changed the schedule recently, and for whom. If your request to change the holiday schedule comes on top of five other recent schedule changes, initiated by you, then you're probably going to have a more difficult time making your case.

8. Offer a Compromise

Offer to make some concessions elsewhere in the schedule in order to get what you want. For example, if you'd like to take the kids on Saturday night, and that was time when your ex was scheduled to have them, suggest that you'll give up some of your scheduled time on another day.

9. Be Discrete

It's important not to discuss your desire to change the holiday schedule with your children before you speak with your ex. Knowing that the two of you are disagreeing about the holiday schedule puts too much pressure on the kids and may even ruin the holiday for them. Respect your kids' right to be kids, and leave them out of these negotiations.

10. Don't Leave the Decision Up to Your Children

Likewise, do not expect your kids to choose between mom's house and dad's house. Leaving the decision up to them puts entirely too much adult responsibility on their shoulders. The two of you are the adults. Show it by being willing to negotiate and reach a compromise about the holiday schedule without using your children to accomplish your goals.

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