Whether you’re newly separated or have been following a custody arrangement for a while, co-parenting during the holidays can be difficult for even the most amicable of families. Holidays schedules can be the most contentious part of creating a Parenting Plan. While we try to keep your family celebrations in mind in crafting a custodial arrangement, it’s not always possible to carry-on traditions as you once did. Here are a few tips to help you get through the holiday season without added stress and embrace a split holiday schedule.
Plan In Advance
Whether there is a custody schedule in place or you’re still working towards creating an arrangement, there are always holiday details that need to be worked out in advance. Agreeing in advance where and when the children will be exchanged can avoid the headache that comes with trying to make last minute arrangements. I recommend having this conversation – whether directly with the other parent or through your attorneys – at least three weeks in advance. It gives everyone enough time to respond, (hopefully) reach some mutual decision, and plan their holiday celebrations.
You and the other parent may decide to exchange your children on Christmas Day, or even the following day. If you’re traveling for the holiday, make sure that your travel plans enable you to be on time for the exchange. I regularly hear about parents showing up hours late because they were traveling. While we all understand that traffic happens, leave early enough to account for such a delay. If you’re flying, inform the other parent of any delays and timely inform them of any updates. You may also want to consider allowing the other parent to keep the children a day longer to make up for the time missed.
Be respectful of the other parent’s holiday time, just as you would expect them to be respectful of yours. Mutual respect of each other’s time with your children will help facilitate a stronger co-parenting relationship.
Take Advantage Holiday Events
Most holiday events and activities begin in November and run through the beginning of January. There is something to fit everyone’s budget and schedule happening most nights. Plan a night of celebration with your children and create new memories.
Create New Traditions
The greatest thing about holidays is there is no right or wrong way to celebrate. If you can no longer follow your family holiday traditions, use a split holiday schedule as an opportunity to create new ones. Growing up, most of my family worked on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. To accommodate everyone’s schedules, my family began celebrating on December 23rd – or “Christmas Adam” as we call it (because Adam came before Eve in the bible). Christmas Adam eventually evolved to the biggest and best family tradition we have, yielding amazing memories and inside jokes.
Don’t Let Splitting the Holiday Put a Damper on the Celebration
This goes hand-in-hand with Tip #3. Forgoing the holiday celebration because you did not get to celebrate on the actual holiday only culminates in more frustration and resentment towards the other parent. Telling your child that you’re not celebrating with them because they have to go with the other parent can also foster those same feelings of resentment in your child.
A former client of mine once told me that they celebrate Thanksgiving on the Saturday before or after the holiday, depending on how the custody schedule falls. The whole family got on board with this idea and they have a huge celebration on whatever day they designate as Thanksgiving. The idea is that everyone is together, not what day they ate their turkey.
Personally, Santa has visited our home as early as December 18th and as late as January 2nd. I promise you, my step-daughter has the same level of excitement as when Santa visits on December 24th. What kid would be upset with two Christmases??
Remember What Matters
When the lights burn out and the presents are all unwrapped, your children will only remember the time spent with you, not which day you celebrated.
I hope these tips help you avoid some unnecessary frustration this holiday. Whatever, or whenever, you celebrate, I wish you a very joyous holiday season.