1 – Check with the other parent before making any plans.
Hopefully you and your ex will have a parenting plan in place which outlines holiday visitation time. If not, you will need to discuss any potential plans with each other and come to an agreement. Even if the conditions between you are not positive, it is imperative that you try to cooperate and compromise for the sake of your children. If you and your ex can work together, you can come up with a schedule to fairly share the time with the children, whether that is together or separate. Holidays can become more complicated if there are misunderstandings or miscommunications. It’s best to come up with a reasonable schedule for the holidays and present it to the other parent as early as possible.
2 – Don’t put children in the middle.
Before consulting the children about any possible plans for the holidays, refer to a parenting plan that may be in place. Don’t make your children decide who they want to spend the holiday with. It is unfair to make them choose between the two most important people in their lives. Also, their answer may not be what you want to hear, which can make you unhappy. Remember to give the children an opportunity to speak with the other parent on the day. This will help them all to deal with the separation better.
3 – Be Flexible
If your heart is set on doing a certain thing with the children for the holidays, and your ex doesn’t agree with your plans, it is better to compromise than to turn the holiday season into one big, miserable, fight. While good planning is important, you also need to maintain some degree of flexibility for smooth co-parenting during the holidays. No plan can account for everything that might happen. Perhaps your child gets sick and you need to scale back some of the holiday partying. Maybe relatives come into town unexpectedly. What if you planned a week-long Christmas vacation out of town, but your ex wants the children for Christmas Eve? What do you do? You compromise. See if your ex will agree to spend Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve with the children in exchange for allowing you to have them for Christmas. If that doesn’t work, try to come up with other compromises that allow both parties to have their needs met, with minimal disruption for the children. Remember, goodwill gestures make co-parenting a much smoother process in the long run and are good for your kids.
4 – Coordinate Gifts
It can be tempting, if you have a difficult relationship with your ex, to get into the mode where each of you are trying to “out-do” the other with lavish gifts for your children. This usually ends up backfiring and may end up harming your children in the long run. If you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah with gifts, coordinate with your co-parent. It is easy for holidays to become excessive, but this is not what parents usually want for their children. Talk about the number of gifts, money limits, and things that are off-limits (perhaps there are certain electronics or items that feel age-inappropriate or outside your value system). This process is much easier the earlier you establish it. It is also much harder to undo entitlement in your child than it is to stop it from happening to begin with.
5 – Start new traditions
Creating new traditions can give your children something to look forward to this season. A divorce or separation doesn’t have to mean that all fun holiday traditions should be over. Instead, come up with new ones for the family to enjoy. Keep in mind that trying to continue some family traditions can be more painful than they are special. For example, if you always watched a favorite Christmas movie on Christmas Eve while enjoying popcorn and hot cocoa, don’t try to recreate – it may just highlight for the children that someone is missing. Instead try something new. With every situation, ask yourself will this likely be a positive experience for everyone. Get creative and come up with a new tradition to follow – involve the children in this process so that they get to have a say in what the future traditions will be.
If you have questions about family law, call attorney Nichole Oblinger at (623) 526-5597 or go to AnthemLaw.com.