The holiday season is a time for joy, celebration and togetherness – and that can be a little hard on newly divorced parents.
Your parenting plan probably already addresses how the holiday schedule will be split, whether you alternate any given date every other year, split the major holidays in half or something else, but all of the rest of the details still need some planning.
1. Discuss any potential need for accommodation
Your parenting plan has the “default” or enforceable agreement surrounding visitation, but flexibility is key to a truly happy season for all. Be willing to accommodate any requests for schedule changes your co-parent makes if there’s a good reason for them, and be ready to ask for similar accommodations to meet your needs.
For example, imagine that your co-parent has extended family in town for a day that happens to be when you’re supposed to have physical custody of the kids. You could trade that time and parlay the goodwill you earned in the process into a night where you pick up the kids on your “co-parent’s time” so that you can go see Santa at the mall or something similar.
You also need to discuss things like pickup and drop-off times, what happens if there’s a weather emergency when an exchange is supposed to take place and what to do if one of the kids becomes unexpectedly ill during a visit. Make an agreement about how you’ll communicate if there are any last-minute concerns.
The key is thinking about how your children should experience the holiday, and working to make that vision a reality.
2. Communicate openly and clearly about gift-giving
When parents are married, they usually make joint decisions about holiday gifts, and there’s no reason that should really change. Consider an agreement that you’ll work together to decide how much you will spend, what items on your children’s wish lists get purchased and how you will split the bills. That not only makes the holidays more affordable, but it also helps avoid duplicate purchases.
Whatever you do, you want to avoid a situation where you and your co-parent end up “competing” with each other for the best gift. That can actually make your child feel stressed.
Another issue to discuss with your co-parent is whether or not gifts from one parent can travel to the other’s house. Generally, it’s best if any gift to your child is viewed as the child’s property from that point forward, which means it can travel with them back and forth from each parent’s house as desired (no matter who purchased it).
During the holidays, it’s essential that you shift your focus from being ex-spouses to being co-parents. Put aside any lingering resentment or anger and work together to create a joyful and stress-free environment for your children. When your children see that you and your co-parent can cooperate and get along, it can provide them with a sense of security and stability – and that may be one of the best gifts you can offer.