The holidays are a time for families to come together, create memories, and pass down traditions; whether it be during Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas. However, for families going through a divorce, the holidays may bring emotional weight from trying to adapt to a shift in the family structure. We have created a list of tips to help you arrange parenting time during the holidays so that you, your co-parent, and your children can be prepared.
1. Decide which holidays are important to your family.
Within families, everyone is different and therefore some people may have a particular attachment to certain holidays, whereas other family members may be indifferent. Take into consideration the cultural background of your co-parent and create a list of the holidays which are important to you both. If you and your co-parent have separated but still celebrate the same holidays, a schedule should be created to allow both parents time with the children. While it would be ideal for the family to celebrate the holidays together if you and your co-parent have not separated amicably it is unlikely that you would be able to come together without conflict. It is important to keep the children’s well-being in mind when making holiday arrangements. Therefore, you may alternate the common holidays and have the children celebrate with one parent this year and the other parent the following year. Optimally, if you live close to your co-parent, consider splitting the holiday between both parents so that the children may spend the first half of the day with one parent and the second half with the other.
2. Involve your children in the holiday planning.
As parents, we often make the mistake of excluding our children from the holiday planning process. If your child is old enough to understand that their parents are going through a divorce they should be informed about where they may be spending the holidays.
Create a safe space so they can ask questions and even provide recommendations for parenting arrangements. Ensure that you are receptive to your children’s concerns as this change may be hard on them. Consider having members of your extended family join you and your children for the holiday celebrations and come up with new traditions so that your children maintain a positive view of the holidays.
3. Consider your personal and work schedules.
Most parents would prefer to spend the day of the holiday with their children, however, their time may be limited because of their work schedule or other commitments. As such, parents must be realistic about what their schedule may look like for that particular season. If you know your boss expects you to go to work on Christmas Eve, then it’s unlikely that you can make the commitment to host your child on that day. Instead, communicate your schedule and expectations with your family. Even if you are not on speaking terms with your co-parent, have your lawyer or another adult family member inform your co-parent of your schedule on your behalf. If you want to make any changes to the previously agreed upon holiday schedule, propose your amendments in writing. In the event that you received a court-ordered child custody agreement, consult with a family law attorney to ensure that all legal requirements are met.
4. Be Transparent!
Though divorce can be hard on the family, it is necessary to prioritize the well-being of your children. Discuss your expectations for the holidays with your co-parent and decide which holidays are important to you so you can arrange how the time will be spent. Do not leave your children out of family discussions, encourage them to voice their concerns and preferences and take them into account when creating your parenting time schedule. Lastly, be realistic about your availability. If a particular holiday is important to you but you are unable to accommodate your child on that day, it is best to be transparent and let the other parent know.