Divorce can mean clearing one hurdle after another, and the first holiday season after a split can be a major hurdle for separated parents.
New schedule adjustments and holiday stress can make the season feel overwhelming. A thought-out parenting plan can take some of the pressure off both parents during the holidays, and help everyone adjust to the new normal. Some things to include:
Determine where kids are going to be, and for how long. Discuss any potential trips or vacations over the holiday season well in advance. Use a calendar and block off the time you get with your children and the time they spend with the other parent.
Try to divide it as evenly as possible, and keep the kids' best interest at heart. If they love going to one grandparents' house, try to schedule a little extra time for them to be there. Try to make the season as enjoyable as you can for everyone, but remember that there will be setbacks no matter how hard you try.
Be understanding but keep boundaries
Holidays are a time of family and togetherness, so it's only natural to expect friction from kids still processing a divorce. This may mean acting out or behaving differently over the holidays. Discuss a plan with your co-parent about how to handle discipline over the holidays. It can be tempting to leave all punishments to the other parent, especially over a holiday break. Don't make it one-sided.
Don't change your normal parenting rules to accommodate the holidays. This means staying on the same page for things like curfews and snacks. Make sure your parenting plan keeps you on the same page.
Compromise, compromise, compromise
It's going to be difficult to come up with a plan that both you and your ex-partner are completely satisfied with. Holidays are busy, with lots of time demands pulling in both directions. Your parenting plan is going to feature compromise. Work with the other parent to make a plan that gets as close as you can to balance each other's goals.
Talk about holiday preferences. If your ex loves Thanksgiving, consider giving him or her an extra day with the children. This small gesture can go a long way toward future compromises. This may mean you have to cut a ski trip short so that your children can get to your ex's family dinner. Or it could be switching custody days so they can open presents with a grandparent.
There's always next year
Don't worry if things don't go perfectly. Take lessons from what works with your holiday plan and what doesn't, and get ready to try again next year.
A family law attorney can suggest parenting plan examples or answer any custody questions you may have.