As fall turns into winter, divorced parents everywhere are already starting to make their holiday plans. Early preparation is key when you’re co-parenting – because leaving your plans for the last minute is a recipe for trouble.
If this is your first holiday season post-divorce or separation, you may be unsure how to navigate a few aspects peculiar to the season. These are some tips that may help you to proceed with more success and less stress.
Talk to your co-parent about gift-giving and budgets
The last thing you want is to get into a competition with your ex over the gifts for the kids. That’s expensive, frustrating and decidedly not in your child’s best interests. Put your differences with your ex-spouse aside and open a line of communication about just this issue. See if you can work together to decide on a holiday budget that will work for both sides. Then, either coordinate gifts (to avoid duplicates and disappointment) or agree to go in together on any big-ticket items that your child wants.
Find out about visits from extended family as soon as possible
No matter what the parenting time schedule says, flexibility is key around the holidays. If your children have extended family members who usually visit around the holidays, you don’t want to deprive the kids of those encounters and good memories. Try to get on the same page with your co-parent regarding holiday visits from grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins so that you can negotiate some trade-offs ahead of time that will keep everybody happy.
Involve your children in your plans
Be open with your children about how things are going to work this season, without making them feel guilty about any time either parent is going to be alone. Stress the idea that everybody will get to see each other at some point and make sure that the kids are informed about the schedule so that there’s no mystery. If you have teenagers, you may want to get their input about your plans and, at a minimum, listen to any suggestions they might have.
Be willing to embrace new traditions (or uphold the old ones)
For your children’s sake, consider sharing a few of the holiday events with your co-parent. For example, if you always went driving around as a family to see the holiday lights, the kids may not feel the same about it if just one parent is there. If that’s not possible because of the tensions between you, you may want to forgo the old traditions and find new ones. That can keep the kids from drawing comparisons between the past and the present and finding the present lacking.
If you have questions about how to address the holidays in your parenting plan, know that you can seek legal guidance at any time.