The holidays are here, and the familiar tune tells us it’s the most wonderful time of the year. But for separated or divorced families, it can also be one of the most challenging times of the year. Whether together or separated, one thing most parents can agree on is that they want their children to have the best holiday possible. Successfully co-parenting during the holidays may not be easy; however, the following tips can help you make the holidays less stressful for you and your children.
Holiday Co-Parenting Tips for Those
“Splitting Time” between different parental homes:
- Communicate and coordinate with the other parent before announcing plans to your children. You don’t want to look like a scrooge when you have to tell your children they can’t attend a promised activity because of a schedule conflict you didn’t resolve with the other parent. While it may be hard to compromise with the other parent, put the best interest of your children first and realize that this time of year calls for some added flexibility to make things run smoothly.
- Don’t turn the holidays into a competition. It’s not about which parent has the biggest Christmas tree or buys the most expensive gifts. It’s not about being overly focused on spending “equal time” between households. Focus instead on the quality of time you spend with your children when they’re with you.
- Don’t make young children decide which parent they’ll spend the holiday with. This can put them in a position where they may feel guilty – regardless of their choice.
- After planning and coordinating the main holiday events with the other parent, let your children know what to expect. While you may not know the timing of every holiday party or shopping trip, tell your children about the main items on the calendar: when they’ll be at home, which days they’ll spend with the other parent, when they’ll be traveling to the grandparents’ house, etc.
- Maintaining as many aspects of their regular routine is helpful, particularly for younger children. If possible, reserve the weekends and the official winter break for special activities and events. Stick to the regular schedule and routine during the school week.
- Allow “down time” for yourself and your children during the holidays. Holiday activities and special events can be fun and exciting, but they can be tiring as well. Try a simple low-key evening at home, watching a holiday movie and eating popcorn.
- Plan ahead if you’re going to travel with your children. Crowded airports or long car rides can be especially challenging for them. Bring snacks and activities to keep them occupied. Remember that patience goes a long way, so bring plenty of that as well!
- Keep as many of your familiar holiday traditions as possible, while helping your children accept the changes that come with separation and divorce. Encourage them to embrace and learn to enjoy the new traditions you’ll establish with them as well.
- Don’t be influenced by what everyone else tells you the perfect holiday should look like. Stay focused on what’s best for your children and what works for your unique situation.
Above all, remember that the most important gifts you’ll give your children this holiday season are found in your faith, in the positive relationships you model for them and in the memories you help them create.
Andrea Schultz has specialized in counseling services for children, adolescents and families for more than 25 years. She received her Master’s degree in Counseling from the University of North Texas. Andrea is a Licensed Professional Counselor, has completed advanced training as a Registered Play Therapist and holds advanced licensure as a board-approved clinical supervisor.