Co-Parenting Tips For The Holidays

December 18, 2019 at 10:18 pm Leave a comment

CoParenting Tips

Great article by Kelly Frawley and Emily Pollock
Having survived divorce and coparenting, I appreciate the pointers that are listed here for parents who are divorced and share custody.

“The most wonderful time of the year” has the potential to become not so wonderful when parents who share custody of their children don’t have a mutually agreeable holiday plan in place. This isn’t the time for arguments over who’s getting which day or who’s buying what gift; a carefully thought-out plan can help you avoid tension and uncertainty so that all of you — most importantly, your kids — can enjoy a drama-free winter break.

When deciding how to schedule time and collaborate during the holidays, co-parents should take a number of factors into account: the children’s ages, family traditions and religious beliefs, how well the parents get along, and the kind of relationships the parents have with each of the children (it’s important to respect the traditions that are important to each of them). You might also want to factor in what happens during other school breaks during the year. For example, if one parent traditionally takes the kids on a vacation during spring break, then perhaps the other should get the bulk of winter break.

Looking at the big picture can help you see the logical plan for your family.

Setting a Sensible Schedule

Co-parents typically choose to manage the holiday season one of two ways:

1. Alternating years. One parent keeps the children for the entire winter break in odd-numbered years; the other parent gets them for the entire break in even-numbered years. This approach enables each parent, in their designated years, to plan a lengthy trip or schedule activities throughout the break period without needing to worry about giving the other parent equal time. It tends to work best when neither parent has a strong affinity for the season. Perhaps their religious traditions are celebrated at other times of year; a family may have already celebrated Hanukkah, for example, which often falls before winter break.

The downside of this type of arrangement is that one parent is deprived of holiday time with the children during the parent’s “off” years. This causes many co-parents, especially those who place a high value on holiday traditions, to take a different approach.

2. Equal time. Often, co-parents divide winter break in half, which typically gives each of them a week to celebrate the holidays or take a trip with their kids. They may alternate years when considering who takes the first week versus the second, since Christmas usually falls in the first. Parents may also choose to split the time by day, particularly when it comes to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. By each taking one of these important days, both parents, as well as the children, get meaningful Christmas time together each year.

In situations where co-parents get along, a third possibility arises: giving the children time with both parents together. For example, children who believe in Santa and cherish Christmas mornings might appreciate having both parents present in those festivities. In fact, children of any age might appreciate a visit by their other parent, as long as the experience remains amicable.

Buying Gifts: Together or Separately?

If your winter break includes a gift-giving occasion, it makes good sense to collaborate with your ex-spouse so you don’t duplicate gifts for your children or inadvertently neglect to buy the gifts they wanted most because you assumed the other parent was buying them. In a Santa situation, discuss who is responsible for that experience. Will it change year to year based on who has the kids on Christmas, or will you work together?

The more collaborative you can be, the better. However, if you absolutely cannot work with your ex-spouse, then it’s important to work through counsel to determine who will be responsible for what so you don’t put your children through undue awkwardness or stress.

You may also want to consider taking your children shopping so they can buy a holiday gift for the other parent. It teaches children not only about giving, but shows that you encourage kindness towards your ex-spouse.

Making the Plan Official

Your holiday plans should be set forth in the custody settlement agreed to in your divorce. The settlement should specify how school holidays—winter break, spring break and the long weekends of Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc.—will be spent and apportioned from year to year. You may want to address what will happen on specific religious holidays your family honors that aren’t included in the school schedule as well. If you decide to continue the regular parenting schedule during a school break, then you should provide such in your agreement. Not doing so leaves the door open for the other parent to later ask a Court to decide whether it should be split or alternated.

Also take your children’s ages into account. Phase-in provisions can be included in regular custody schedules, as well as holiday schedules, when young children are involved. For example, your settlement might set forth one arrangement covering the holidays from 2019-2023, with a different arrangement starting in 2024.

Our advice to co-parents is to sign an agreement that makes sense for your family and then put it in a drawer and live your lives. Try to be accommodating toward each other, working together and adapting as things may change. As long as you agree, you can adjust or change schedules. When you can’t agree to such modifications, a well-considered and negotiated settlement agreement provides the certainty of a schedule around which you can plan.

My Two Cents Worth: There will be times when none of these ideas mentioned in the article work for you, your ex and your child.

The best thing you can do is think about how much your child loves you and your ex (his other parent). Be reasonable, try not to take things personally and be flexible.

Happy Holidays,

C. Lynn Williams, #MsParentguru

Entry filed under: #lessonslearned, adolescents, childrearing, coparenting, divorce, family, father, mom, Parenting.

Modern Moms Embrace The Holidays 🦃🎅🏽🎄 Your No-Stress Guide to the Perfect Family Getaway

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