The holiday season is a time for gathering with family and celebrating the important things in life. While it may seem like it should be a relaxing, fun-filled occasion, any parent knows it can also be quite stressful. This is especially true in the wake of a divorce.
Figuring out whether – and how – you’ll share your children with your ex over the holidays can be a tense discussion. However, establishing clear guidelines with your co-parent can enable both of you to have the same expectations – and allow your kids to simply enjoy this family time. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Make the best possible experience for your children
You may want your children to be there with you for all of your favorite holiday events – from Christmas caroling to cookie decorating. However, if you’re sharing a holiday with your ex, it’s important to consider how being shuffled between each parent’s favorite events will affect your children.
Your children are already going through a major life transition. Therefore, try to minimize the transitions over the holidays. Rather than packing multiple events into a single day, focus on one event that they can fully participate in and enjoy. This will help to give them a deeper sense of stability – and create new happy holiday memories with you.
Have a gift-giving game plan
Being away from your child for some – or all – of your favorite holiday can be painful, which may create added tension with your co-parent. You may be tempted to “show them up” in other regards, such as by buying your children extravagant gifts – even if you normally wouldn’t indulge them in that way.
Coming to an agreement with your co-parent about gift-giving limits before the holiday season can help avoid emotionally spurred decisions like these. Talk to your ex and agree to limits on how much you both will spend, and how many gifts you’ll buy. Also come to an understanding about certain gifts that you don’t want your child to receive – such as certain electronic devices. Then be sure to share these agreed-upon rules with the extended family.
Sort through the details
If you and your ex are sharing custody of your children over the holidays, a clearly defined plan is essential to keeping things peaceful between you. This means coming to agreements on all of the details in advance.
If your family is religious, decide when and where your child will attend any religious events. You can also work out with your co-parent whether you’ll attend these together. Be sure to look at your children’s school calendar, and make sure that anything you plan lines up with their days off.
The holiday season can be a whirlwind. But if you focus on what’s important – quality time with your kids – it can help you to plan a holiday season that they will enjoy and remember fondly for years to come.