The holiday season is a busy time for many families. Parents often have additional demands at work due to the season or the end of the year. The children will have a couple of weeks off from school. Then there is a long list of social demands involving the holidays. Coparents experiencing this for the first time, or are looking at their final holiday season before filing for divorce in January, will likely be even more overwhelmed than ever as they struggle to schedule, shop, cook, clean and collapse when it is all done.
Parenting plans are part of any divorce agreement that includes children. One of the most critical parts of any divorce, these include the custody agreement but also outline the visitation schedule, where the children will live, and other details regarding the care and wellbeing of the children. The holiday schedule is an integral part of parenting plans as the coparents try to minimize the divorce’s potential negative impact on the holidays.
Important issues to consider
Family experts believe that it is important to provide a sense of continuity after the divorce, but the parenting plan also needs to address this new reality:
- Maintain old traditions: Perhaps Christmas day morning is always spent at the family home, and Thanksgiving may be at Aunt Judy’s house — both parents should try to honor these events if they are popular.
- Create new traditions: Maybe dad will now order takeout pizza and take the kids to the cineplex on Christmas night.
- Alternating holidays: The parenting plan will often alternate years and holidays, so even-numbered years mean Thanksgiving with dad and Christmas with mom and odd-numbered years are Thanksgiving with mom and Christmas with dad. Alternately, parents may opt to celebrate holidays twice or split the days in half. Other holidays can alternate as well, though birthdays could also be celebrated twice.
- Shop with the kids: It sets the right tone if you take them to buy gifts for the coparent.
The busy schedule often includes surprises that provide additional excitement for the children. Both parents need to be flexible about these opportunities rather than force them to miss out because something else is already planned. The key is to communicate, work together and come up with a plan that keeps the children happy while also getting each parent that essential family time.