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Co-Parenting & the Holidays: Tips for Divorced Parents

co-parenting holidays

Navigating the holidays after divorce can be challenging, especially if you have children and are co-parenting with your ex. In this article, we will discuss eight holiday-related co-parenting tips that can help reduce your stress this holiday season.

1. Review Your Holiday Parenting Plan

You and your co-parent should have set a holiday schedule during your divorce or child custody case. In this schedule, you (or the court) should have outlined how you would divide physical custody during the holidays. While some parents spend the holidays together, others might have agreed to:

  • Alternate holidays each year. With alternating holidays, Parent A will spend certain holidays like Thanksgiving, Easter, and the first half of summer break with their child in even-numbered years. In odd-numbered years, Parent A will have custody during the holidays that Parent B had custody during even-numbered years, such as Christmas, Veteran’s Day, and the Fourth of July.
  • Split the holidays in half. Rather than miss spending time with their child on a holiday, parents decide to spend half of each holiday with their child. For instance, on Thanksgiving, the child will be with Parent A for the first half of the day and then with Parent B for the latter half of the day. Then, on Black Friday, Parent B will have custody in the first half of the day while Parent A gets to spend the second half of the day with their child.
  • Assign fixed holidays. With this schedule, parents spend set holidays with their children every year. For instance, every year, Parent A will have custody on Mother’s Day, Passover, Yom Kippur, and Hanukkah, and Parent B will have custody on Father’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Veteran’s Day, and the Fourth of July.
  • Spending the holidays together. If parents are amicable, they may consider spending the holiday together. However, it is important to note that divorced parents should consider how their child is coping with divorce before holidaying together. Spending holidays and special occasions together is best delayed until two (or more) years after your divorce or separation because your child may struggle to accept or understand that you are really separated.

Whatever you and your co-parent agreed to, it can be beneficial to review your holiday plan. This review allows you both to get a refresher on what time you agreed to do the exchange and helps you prepare and avoid disagreements over tardiness, missed pick-ups, etc.

2. Coordinate Gift-Giving Plans

Co-parents should discuss what gifts they plan to buy for their children. This can help you avoid buying duplicates and allow you to set price limits (if desired). If either parent pays child support, they request that their child support payment be used to cover their portion of the gifts; however, how support is used is entirely up to the parent receiving support.

3. Set Boundaries & Expectations

If possible, co-parents should have a conversation with their child explaining what the holiday plans are. You should make sure that they understand whether they will get to spend time with both parents during the holiday; while they may be upset or confused about why you can’t spend the holiday together, they will benefit from the honesty.

Similar to setting limits on the overall price of gifts, co-parents can also set boundaries with themselves and their children concerning the holiday. For instance, parents may want to make the most of their time with their child during their designated custody time and limit phone use.

4. Prioritize Your Children & Their Happiness

Even if you and your co-parent are less than amicable, you should focus on your children and make the holidays special for them. Avoid arguing in front of your children, and to help foster healthy communication, consider using a co-parenting app Like Our Family Wizard or 2Houses.

5. Help Your Kids Shop

If you are able, you should consider taking your child holiday shopping so they can buy a present for their other parent. An alternative to a store-bought present is helping them make a small gift. Not only will you benefit from getting to spend time with your child but you will also be showing them you want them to have a good relationship and holiday with their other parent.

6. Practice Self-Care

As the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” To smoothly navigate the holidays while co-parenting, you should take care of yourself and set aside time to do things you enjoy. Whether you enjoy a holiday treat or binge some Lifetime holiday films or watch ESPN reels, spend some time doing things you enjoy.

7. Be Flexible

The holidays are never perfect, and something may go awry. If your plan gets off track or you forgot to include something in your plans, be flexible and calm rather than let the small things get to you. The holidays are supposed to be fun and jolly.

8. Lean on Your Support Network

Navigating the holidays after divorce can be challenging, which is why you can benefit from leaning on your friends and family. You can create new traditions or just enjoy the season with them. If needed, you can also lean on our attorneys.

If your holiday schedule or shared parenting plan is not working, you can discuss your legal options concerning modifications with our attorneys. Just as your friends and family can offer you support emotionally, our firm can offer you sound legal counsel and help you understand your legal options.

William Kirby Law, Family Law Attorneys is prepared to help clients navigate a variety of family law matters, including divorce, child custody issues, or post-judgment modifications. Schedule a case consultation and learn more about our services by calling (215) 515-9901.