The holidays are a time of togetherness with friends and family. This year, your family might look a bit different. For parents who are divorced or separated, the holidays can be stressful and overwhelming. Your child may also have unexpected feelings when the Christmas season is no longer celebrated the same way.
Co-parenting during the holidays requires you to set expectations, do extra planning, and be creative to make the season manageable and pleasant for everyone. Here are some co-parenting tips that can help you and your child enjoy the Christmas holidays.
Accept and Embrace Change
After a separation or divorce, things are different. There’s no denying or hiding that fact. This change can bring about feelings of resentment, anger, anxiety, and loneliness for everyone. Be aware of how your children are handling the new holiday arrangements and check-in with them. Validate their feelings and assure them that you’re emotionally working through this time too. Communicate how your children are feeling with the co-parent. If appropriate, seek out a counselor, mediator, or lawyer to help you and your family work through these times.
Your family dynamic has changed; but remember, change is good. It’s the seed of growth.
Create a Holiday Plan
It’s important that your custody agreement include a holiday schedule. Planning ahead for how your child spends the holidays will make this time easier for everyone. Keep in mind, you may need to revise the schedule as your child gets older. What works at age five might not make sense at age fifteen. Consider what your child wants first and communicate that with the co-parent.
If you don’t currently have a plan in place, create one with your ex-partner well in advance of the holidays. Be mindful that just because Christmas falls on a day that you normally have your child, that doesn’t mean you will be with them. You’ll have to make some compromises to be sure that your children spend time with both parents during the holidays.
For assistance modifying your current custody agreement, seek help from a qualified family legal issues attorney.
Begin New Holiday Traditions
Don’t try to “keep things the way they were.” As mentioned earlier, things are different now. Continuing a tradition may be quite painful for your children. It’s perfectly fine to reminisce, but use this time to start traditions and create new memories.
Invite other family members to be a part of the new traditions. If being at home for a certain holiday seems to trigger emotions for your children, consider going to a family member’s house instead. Be creative and find ways to make the holidays something your children look forward to. Here are a few ideas:
- Spend a holiday on vacation;
- Volunteer with your children;
- Bake a new recipe together;
- Host a holiday party;
- Have a movie marathon;
- Play holiday games with neighbors or family;
- Attend a holiday show;
- Sign up for a run, bike ride, or hike; or
- Make a holiday video.
Think about your kids’ interests and hone in on that when starting a new tradition.
Don’t Try to Out-Do Your Co-Parent
It may be tempting to want to go above and beyond during the holidays, particularly if you have a contentious relationship with your co-parent. Buying a lot of gifts or overindulging your child isn’t going to help anything. Always focus on doing what’s right for your children, and take time to talk with your co-parent about holiday gifts, money, and activities.
Co-parenting during the holidays isn’t about being fair; it’s about doing what’s best for your child. Be flexible and willing to compromise during this time. Neither you nor your co-parent will get exactly what you want. Set that expectation for yourself early on.
Consider celebrating a holiday together, if possible. This might give your child a sense of stability and show that you and your co-parent can work together. Now don’t feel bad or pressure the other parent if this arrangement doesn’t work for you.
Be an example for your kids, set your differences aside, and come up with a plan that’s best for the children.
Take Care of Yourself
When you’re feeling good, it’s much easier to handle new and stressful situations. Your mental and physical health is incredibly important, especially as you embrace this time of change. Make a point to get adequate sleep, be active, eat well, and take time for yourself.
The holidays aren’t just about making sure everyone else is having a good time. As a single parent, you get to enjoy the holidays too. Start a new holiday tradition just for yourself. Go on a hike with an extended family member. Visit a Christmas market with friends. Holiday fun isn’t just for kids!
Be gentle and kind with yourself. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone just because you’re a single parent. Holidays aren’t perfect and neither are you. What matters is that you’re handling the situation as best you can given the circumstances. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to reach out for help from a friend or professional. If you’re in a good mind-set, your children will notice.
Contact Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S.
After a separation or divorce, the holidays can be challenging for everyone. By using these co-parenting tips, however, you can make this time enjoyable and memorable for you and your children.
At Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S., we work with clients facing all kinds of family dynamics. Whether you want someone to facilitate communication between you and your co-parent or need to modify your current custody agreement, we can help.
Our family legal matters attorneys have exceptional skills and expertise in all areas of family law. Since 1977, we have been providing tailored solutions to your legal needs. You also have the benefit of the over 50 years of cumulative legal experience that our paralegals and staff bring to the table.
Contact us online or by calling us to request a consultation with one of our family legal issues lawyers.