Dear Dr. Jann,
My ex and I coParent quite well and I often let him take our son at times I’m scheduled to be with him because, quite frankly on paper, I have more time and I try to be fair. But, last week he asked to take our son for New Years Day — and he’s scheduled to be with me. I don’t want to trade—but I feel bad. What’s good ex-etiquette?

Dear Dr. Jann:

There’s no reason to feel bad those are the terms of your parenting plan—if you have plans scheduled with your child on a day that you are scheduled to be with him, it’s perfectly fine to say no if asked to switch, particularly on a special occasion. And, in his defense, it’s not bad ex-etiquette that he asked, but it’s bad ex-etiquette if he gives you a hard time when you say no. It would be another story if you said no all the time, but that’s not what you are telling me. You implied that you try to work with him. That means you’re doing exactly what you are supposed to do.

One of the primary rules of good ex-etiquette is to respect for the other coParent—and your child’s scheduled time with them. (Ex-etiquette for coParents rule #9). Holidays are a big deal. They are filled with all sorts of emotions and family traditions. Unless there’s an event that can’t be rescheduled, like a family reunion or a wedding, etc. asking to switch a major holiday is out of order. If that’s something you have to do, it’s best to ask as far in advance as possible.

He would have known in plenty of time if this New Year’s was set for a special occasion. Therefore, it goes without saying that a week before the day may not be enough time to switch things around. Don’t be afraid to tell him the truth, “Be honest and straightforward,” Ex-etiquette for Parents rule #8,” and always try to offer alternatives–“Can’t do it this year, we have plans, but if you would like him to spend next New Year’s Day with him, let me know.”

Flexibility is a key element to good coParenting—and good ex-etiquette. Happy holidays.

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About Jann Blackstone

Jann BlackstoneDr. Jann Blackstone specializes in divorce, child custody, co-parenting, and stepfamily mediation and is often called the “Relationship Expert for Today’s Relationships” because of her “real life, down-to-earth” approach to relationship problem solving. She is the author of six books on divorce and parenting, the most popular, the Ex-etiquette series featuring Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation. She is also the author of the Ex-etiquette syndicated column and a frequent guest or consultant on television and radio talk shows, including Good Morning America (ABC), The Today Show (NBC), Keeping Kids Healthy (PBS), the Early Show (CBS), and The Oprah Winfrey Show. She has been the featured expert in many magazines, including, Child, Parents, Parenting, Newsweek, Family Circle, More, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, BRIDES, Woman’s Day, and Working Mother Magazine.

In 1999, Dr. Jann founded and became the first Director of Bonus Families®, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization working to change the way society views stepfamilies by supplying up-to-date co-parenting information via its Web site, counseling, mediation, and a worldwide support group network. They prefer to use the word “bonus” to the word step. Step implies negative things; however, a “bonus” is a reward for a job well done. “Bonus…a step in the right direction.”

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