If you are separated or have gone through a divorce and share child custody with your ex-spouse, the upcoming holiday season might be something you are dreading instead of looking forward to. It does not have to be this way if you focus your efforts on keeping your emotions in check and prioritizing your children’s needs. Like anything else that is meaningful and worthwhile, successful holiday co-parenting takes work. Here are some ways that you and your children’s other parent can enjoy the upcoming holiday season.
How Can Families Talk about Holiday Arrangements?
When children are old enough to understand, they should be made aware that they are the priority for you and your former spouse, but that the holidays will be different than in the past. Instead of planning everything without their input, ask the children for some ideas; what would they like to do? If they are at a loss for words, narrow it down by providing them with a few choices and let them make the final decisions. They might want to be closer to their friends or want to split a big day between their parents’ homes. It is also important to be flexible; if someone gets sick or there is a snowstorm, plans may need to be adjusted without any blame.
This advance preparation also extends to speaking with your former spouse about making plans that are acceptable. Last-minute arguments about who will be going where and when can ruin holidays, especially if they take place in front of the children. If you are both starting out on opposite pages, understand that negotiations will probably be needed and do your best to stay calm. When both parties cannot agree on things, it is wise to put the discussion aside for a day or so before renegotiating. The final decisions can be written down, texted, or added to a co-parenting calendar. These can serve to document the agreements that were made. If you have a custody agreement, it should have a holiday schedule in it.
Options for Holiday Celebrations
When children are in school and parents work, holiday activities must be carefully coordinated. Another important consideration is how far the parents live from one another. With farther distances, it may be necessary for the children to spend Thanksgiving at one house and Christmas at the other. Other options include spending Christmas Eve with Dad and Christmas Day with Mom.
Most children like feeling close to both of their parents during the holidays, so these kinds of arrangements might make them sad or angry at first. You can use the tactic of introducing new holiday traditions to boost their attitudes; after all, having everything the same except for one parent not being there could be depressing. Why not think about starting up new traditions? For example, if you have never taken the youngsters ice skating on Christmas Eve or volunteered at a shelter on New Year’s Day, they might find either to be exciting and rewarding. You could try serving the holiday dinner at an earlier hour with completely different food and making new, homemade decorations.
What about Gifts?
Money can be a problem for separated and divorced couples, and buying expensive holiday gifts might not be an option. You can explain this to the children if they are old enough, but it can be difficult. You can try setting limits on how much money can be spent and what kinds of gifts are off limits. Some parents will try to overcompensate with costly gifts, but the rewards of doing so are short lived and can put you in debt. Ex-spouses and partners who get along well enough might consider contributing to larger gifts when a child wants something special. Homemade and inexpensive gifts can be a lot more heartfelt and appreciated, so think about baking and packaging up cookies, a homemade fairy costume, or movie tickets.
In-laws might also want to overcompensate by giving lavish gifts, and there may be no way to stop that from happening. Instead of focusing on those presents and feeling resentment, parents can acknowledge the gifts but avoid making a big deal out of them. You can have the children call their grandparents to thank them, though; this is a thoughtful and appreciated gesture.
How Can We Make a Holiday Schedule?
There is software on the market that is designed to make co-parenting holiday schedules that can be shared among parents, children, and extended family members. Outside of that, it is not hard to do it on your own with a calendar app or a paper calendar. Save the calendar each year as a guideline for the next, but keep in mind that as the children grow up, their wants and needs will change. Children naturally want to spend more time with their friends as they get older, and this is not necessarily a personal insult to their parents.
There are four basic ways to split up the holidays between parents. The first is to assign fixed holidays. Every year, a child could spend Thanksgiving with Mom and Christmas with Dad. Holiday time could also alternate every other year. One year, the child spends Thanksgiving with Mom, and next year he spends it with Dad. The third option is to spend part of the day with one parent and the second part with the other. The last choice is more unusual, but kids often love it: the idea of scheduling a holiday twice. This would involve having Christmas day with Dad on December 25 and with Mom on another day in December.
With all this scheduling and celebrating going on, many parents find that they have little time for themselves. Look at the holiday calendar carefully and carve out some time to enjoy with your friends and family. If it is possible, treat yourself to a manicure, go on a hike, or take a short overnight trip. Remember, parents who take time for their own needs have more physical and mental energy to care for their children.
Baltimore County Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC, Want All Families to Have a Happy Holiday Season
You can make this holiday season more meaningful for yourself and your children if you communicate openly and plan out a holiday schedule that can make everyone happier. If your separation or divorce is challenging and you have child custody worries, do not hesitate to contact the caring, compassionate Baltimore County child custody lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC. We put families first and will fight to protect your rights. For more information and a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 443-589-0150. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.