As recently separated or divorced parents, any holiday season brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only do you both want time with your kids, but you also want to make sure they’re happy.
While holidays like Easter and Christmas may not be easy, they can still be memorable and worthwhile. There are things you can do as divorced or separated parents to make your time together more manageable and satisfying for everyone.
Involve Your Kids
You likely have a picture-perfect idea of how this downtime with your kids will pan out. Your kids probably do too. Involve them in planning. Ask them what activities they’d like to do or what traditions they want to continue.
You should also be transparent with them. Let them know you recognize that this holiday will be a little different – traditions you used to have as a family won’t be quite the same as they were before. Tell them your ideas on how to make this holiday special and get their feedback. As you know, kids are smart. Depending on their age, they may not totally understand the situation, but they will understand that you love them and want them to be happy.
Create a Plan Together
Co-parenting over the holidays means both parents establish a mutually agreed-upon co-parenting holiday schedule. This includes how much time will be spent with each parent and logistics for transportation and hand-offs. Above all, you want to avoid chaos. Let your kids know the schedule so they can have a mental awareness of what’s going on.
Need some ideas on how to celebrate that first Christmas, or Thanksgiving, post-separation? We have a list of ideas for Making the Holidays Special for Your Children When Going Through a Divorce.
As with any holiday, some plans will naturally fall through, run long, or change altogether. Be flexible. Plan to give and take and be kind to yourself throughout.
Go for Simplicity
As you make a plan, you’ll run into the temptation to cram every hour with activities. If both parents go overboard on the activities, no matter how well planned out, it will be overwhelming and exhausting for your kids. The holidays should provide a nice break from the strict regimen they face at school and their extracurriculars. Schedule in downtime where they can relax, come up with their own activities, or simply sit around with family. It will likely be more enjoyable and memorable than another outing.
You can also simplify things for your kids by easing into the introductions to new families, especially during the first holiday after separation. If you’re already remarried or dating, don’t go overboard with taking your kid to functions with this new side of the family. A relationship will develop overtime, so don’t force a new group of people on your kid over one holiday break.
Don’t Make it a Competition
If you’re co-parenting over the holidays, you may feel the need to outdo the other parent in terms of fun. No one wants to be the “boring” parent, but that insecurity can end up being a negative for your child. Instead, in your plan, commit to taking a similar approach to the holidays in terms of activities and their cost.
This is especially true of gifts. There’s no need to outspend each other or spoil your child with an unreasonable amount of gifts. Plan to spend the same amount of money each, or even consider going in on a gift together.
Should Divorced Parents Spend Holidays Together?
While the idea of spending the holidays together may seem unconventional, consider the potential benefits of joint festivities with your ex-spouse. Even if it’s just one day or night, getting everyone together could make a good memory for your child. After all, they still have two parents. Choosing a neutral location could help such as doing an activity together, like looking at lights or going to the mall. You could also rent an Airbnb or vacation home for a day or two to create a neutral ground for the holidays.
Not on good terms? If you and your ex-spouse are not on good terms, or if there are new partners involved who may create holiday drama, we do not recommend getting everyone together as this as it could create some new painful holiday memories for your children.
Holidays this year may look different from previous years, and that’s okay. Focus on making it a great time for your kid and remember to take time for yourself to recover and relax. We both know that you deserve it.
At Richmond Tymchuk Family Law LLP, we want to see you and your family have a very merry and bright holiday season. For further professional guidance on how to keep the holidays and co-parenting amicable, reach out to us today.