One of the most difficult aspects of divorced life is co-parenting over the holiday season. No parent wants to be apart from their children during the holidays, but this is often an inevitability when two parents are no longer together. Luckily, there are tools that you can use to make co-parenting over the holidays easier and less stressful for everyone – allowing you to bring back the joy of the holiday season.
Planning your holiday custody schedule ahead of time can save a great deal of anxiety later. Do not wait until the last minute to decide what the holidays will look like for your family. If you are already divorced and have a parenting plan, review your custody arrangement with your ex-spouse so you are both on the same page about who has the kids and when. This will save you (and your children) from dealing with last-minute changes, stress and disputes over where they will spend each day.
If you are at the stage where you need to map out a parenting plan for a divorce settlement, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want directly. Keep in mind, however, that a parenting plan is a negotiation that requires give and take – both you and your ex-spouse need to compromise to achieve a collaborative divorce process. For example, if a certain holiday is important to you, consider giving up another holiday to your ex to keep things fair. You may also want to consider alternating years.
Consider Sharing the Holiday Together
If you are on good terms with your co-parent, consider spending the holidays with your kids together. Although this is not an option for every family, it can make things easier for both parents if it is a possibility, as neither will have to give up a holiday with the kids. If you go this route, make sure you can be amicable and friendly with your co-parent so that you don’t fight or create tension around the holidays for your children.
Communicate With Your Co-parent
If you are dividing parenting time with your co-parent over the holidays, such as having the kids for Christmas morning and sending them to your ex’s house for Christmas night, communication is critical. The only way that you will get through the holiday season with a shared custody schedule is with open and polite communication with your ex-spouse.
Do your best to remain civil and coolheaded during conversations. If there are any disputes about the holiday schedule, go back to your custody arrangement and use this as a basis for what the holidays should look like. Anticipate issues and come up with creative ways to resolve them. Coordinate gifts and holiday experiences with your co-parent to avoid any surprises or conflicts. Be as flexible as possible without sacrificing your parental rights.
Prioritize the Kids
If your children are old enough to make mature decisions for themselves, consider involving them in the process of planning your two-household holiday season. Ask them what they want and how they would like to spend each holiday. Then, do your best to accommodate their wishes by coordinating with your co-parent. While there is no guarantee that the kids can have the schedule they want, including them in the conversation can give everyone a chance to be heard. Remember to always prioritize both you and your child’s mental health, especially when times are busy.
Make New Holiday Traditions
Most of all, remember that the holidays after a divorce or legal separation will look different, and that’s okay. The sooner you accept this, the easier it will be to enjoy your holidays in a new way. Rather than lamenting over what holidays used to look like, make new traditions that you and your kids can look forward to. If your spouse gets the kids on the actual day of a holiday, for example, make a fun tradition for the weekend after. This will give you and your kids something special to do together each year.