Parents understand that the holidays are a hectic time of year. There are often heavier than usual work obligations because of the holidays and the impending end of the year. There is also a long list of social responsibilities, including filling children’s time off from school, traditional gatherings with family and friends. Then there is time set aside for the shopping, cooking, cleaning, and wrapping that needs to take place.
The new wrinkle this year maybe that parents are going through their first holidays after the divorce, or thinking about how they will handle this planning and scheduling next year after announcing the divorce in January. Moving forward, parenting plans include the custody agreement but also outline a great deal about the children, including how they will experience the holidays with parents who are divorced.
What to consider
This will be a big adjustment for children, parents and extended family. It will likely mean the end of some traditions and the beginning of others, but the key to a successful parenting plan is taking pains to ensure that the season is a positive one for the children. Approaches for making it work include:
- Alternate holidays: Parents can alternate holidays, so the kids spend Thanksgiving with mom and Christmas with dad on even years and Thanksgiving with dad and Christmas with mom on odd years. This alternating can carry over to Easter, July 4 and other times when kids and parents are off. Another option is celebrating two versions of all major holidays as well as birthdays.
- Account for family traditions: Family experts believe that a sense of continuity is essential, so attending grandma’s Christmas Eve dinner may be set in stone, even including both parents if they are comfortable with the idea.
- Create new traditions: Maybe dad orders takeout Chinese dinner every Christmas night or takes the kids to grandpa’s house.
- Take the kids shopping: Embrace the spirit of the season and take the kids shopping to buy gifts for the other parent as well as members of your side of the family. Be thoughtful, coordinate with the co-parent, and try to avoid competitive gift-giving or items on the forbidden list (such as no Nerf guns for junior).
Cooperation is the key
Parents should be in regular contact (in their preferred format) regarding planning. This will include the purchase of gifts, pick up and drop off times (be prompt), and other details regarding the process for transferring the children. It is also essential to be flexible because packed holidays often come with surprises that the kids will want to experience regardless of what the parents had planned.