The winter holiday season has officially begun, and many people take this time to celebrate, see family, and take a break from work and school. However, between logistics, disrupted schedules, and having house guests, the holidays can be a tumultuous time, especially for divorced parents and blended families. Our tips for co-parenting around the holidays will help you have a smooth, enjoyable holiday season and keep stress to a minimum.
Check in with each other in advance of the holidays.
The holidays can be a busy time, and leaving communication about holiday plans until the last minute can add to stress. Even if your parenting plan or visitation schedule sets what will happen during the holidays, check in with the other parent a few weeks before the kids’ school break. If your parenting plan is firm on the holidays, confirm logistical details like pick up times and locations, to make the transition as smooth as possible for the children. Commit to keeping the lines of communication open. Discuss how you want to communicate with the other parent in the event of unexpected, uncontrollable events that may require a change of plans, like an illness or a major weather delay (by phone, text, email, etc.). If your parenting plan is flexible, it is especially important to check in with the other parent a few weeks early so you can set the holiday schedule. Have an honest discussion of each parent’s wishes and try to reach a compromise that gives the kids a meaningful celebration with each parent. In all cases, respect the other parent’s time and hold up your end of any agreement.
Check in with the kids.
The holidays can be tough on kids when their parents are separated. You can do a lot for setting the mood and ensuring that your children feel loved and supported by communicating with your kids. Let your kids know that you and their other parent are working together to set up a holiday plan that will allow them to spend time with both of you, and with both sides of the family. Inform them of the holiday plan as soon as it is finalized, giving them details when and where they will be picked up. Talk with them about what your plan is for any last-minute changes, so they know what is going on if something unexpected happens. Let your children give voice to their frustration, and tell them you hear them without criticizing them or their other parent. If your children are old enough and if your parenting plan allows, listen to your children’s ideas about how they may want to spend their holidays.
Focus on the spirit, rather than the date.
Remember what the holidays are all about– spending time with family and letting our loved ones know we care about them. Your kids will thrive if they feel loved and appreciated, regardless of the exact date of the celebration.
Start new traditions, maintain some old ones.
Have an open conversation with your kids about what holiday traditions they love, and ask them to suggest a new tradition that you can start doing together. By trying something new, you can help turn the holidays into a time for bonding, moving forward, and creating special new memories between you and your kids, rather than a reminder of “the way it used to be.”
Allow everyone some down time.
Even when parents have the best of intentions, the holidays can be overwhelming, especially when the children are attending multiple celebrations with different sides of the family or when the separation is recent. Schedule some down time for your kids (and for you) into your holiday plans. Whether its some quiet time to enjoy new presents, putting on a holiday movie with some popcorn, or just giving the kids the option of hanging out in their rooms for a while, relaxation time will allow everyone to process what is going on and arrive refreshed from one parent’s house to the other. And don’t forget to take some time for yourself! Although you will be focusing on the best interests of your children, acknowledge your own feelings as well, and take some time for yourself to relax.
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