Holidays are a joyful time filled with laughter and cheer. Whether this is the first time that a couple is spending the holidays apart or they have done it for years, this is a challenging time for families. More importantly, this may mean the first time that parents are celebrating the holidays without their children.
The following are some tips to consider when navigating the world of co-parenting during the holiday season:
1. Inform the Children
When couples are newly divorced or recently separated, it is important to let the children know that things are going to be different. While this may not be an easy conversation, it will be in the best interests of the children to prepare them for the change. If possible, both parents should inform the children together and present a unified message. Letting the children know that their parents will work together to ensure they have a happy holiday season will help ease their transition into the new holiday reality.
2. Have a Specific Plan
One of the easiest ways to limit conflict is to make a specific plan for the holidays. There are many different and creative ways to create holiday parenting plans for the children. The more detailed, the better. For example, on Thanksgiving, the children can stay with one parent to watch the Parade before going to the other parent for dinner. For the Christmas holiday, one parent can have the children on Christmas Eve and the other on Christmas Day. Parents may also choose to alternate the holidays each year. Including times and places for transfers can help to provide stability for both the parents and the children.
3. Discuss Gifts Beforehand
It is important for parents to be on the same page as much as possible when co-parenting around the holidays. One area where this is especially important is gift-giving. If gifts are discussed beforehand, arguments can be avoided. Advance discussion about the type of gifts (educational, athletic, or otherwise) each parent will give to the children can help to avoid conflict. Additionally, the parents can mitigate the risk of buying children the same gift, which will only serve to bring the separation to the forefront of a child’s mind.
4. Create New Traditions
Usually, families have their own holiday traditions that they enjoy every year. Children often look forward to participating in these traditions that they have associated with the holiday season. Create a new tradition that will become part of your new holiday plan. Whether it is baking gingerbread houses, watching a particular holiday movie, or dressing up in matching pajamas, these new traditions will help children transition into a new holiday schedule.
5. Be Flexible
While flexibility is important for co-parents all year round, it is even more important during the holiday season. This time of year is often when parenting agreements allow for a deviation from the normal schedule. Parents should work together and be flexible to ensure that transitions go smoothly, and things remain as normal for the children as possible.
6. Control Your Relatives
The holidays are often spent with family members who travel from near and far. These family members may have varying opinions about an ex-spouse of their loved one. However, it is important to ensure that relatives do not speak negatively about the mother or father of the children. Talk to your relatives ahead of time to make sure they are on their best (or at least appropriate) behavior. Set ground rules. It is never beneficial for the children to hear negative comments about their parents. Be positive, it is the holidays!