Co-parenting children is tough enough during the rest of the year, but it can become especially difficult when the holidays come around. Thanksgiving and winter holidays like Christmas, Hanukah, and New Year’s Eve and Day are special times when lasting family memories are made.
When parents feel like they have to compete to create these memories, it can result in friction or strife that might put a noticeable damper on the season’s festivities. That’s why people who are co-parenting this time of year should prepare themselves and their children as much as possible.
5 Ways to Make Co-Parenting Easier This Holiday Season
If you are in a situation where you and someone else will have to share time with your child during the holidays, the tips below are a few ways you can make the process a little easier.
1. Talk to Your Children about the Holidays
One of the best ways to get through the holidays on a co-parenting schedule is to explain the situation as appropriately to your child as possible. If this is the first year that you and your child may not be together for a certain holiday, it’s important to reassure your child that you love them and that some families do holidays differently, like yours will this year.
It may be difficult to have this conversation with your child, but your primary goals should be to explain what they can expect in an age-appropriate way, reassure them that they’re loved, and do your best to lessen their anxiety about the situation – even if you’re feeling it yourself.
2. Make Plans with Your Child’s Other Parent
Your co-parenting plan probably already establishes how you and your child’s other parent will share time with your child during the holidays. If your plans for the holidays are less rigidly established, now is a good time to discuss with the other parent how splitting time with your child will work this year.
Your plan should include more than simply who gets to spend time with your child and when, though. You should have a detailed plan that specifies when one parent’s time with a child ends and when the other’s time begins, how the child will get from one home to the other, etc.
Whatever your plans end up being, write them down somewhere. Not only will this be a valuable document to refer to later, but it also establishes a paper trail that can be used to demonstrate whether or not your current co-parenting arrangements are working.
3. Split Time Evenly
Under most circumstances, each parent deserves to make happy holiday memories with their children. This means that each parent in a co-parenting situation should consider the child’s needs for an equal amount of time with their other parent.
Splitting time evenly each year can work out in different ways. If two parents live close to each other, it may be possible for a child to spend some time in each home during a holiday. Time can be evenly split during holidays with multiple days – Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s – allowing a child to spend one or more full days in one parent’s home.
If parents live further away, alternating between fall holidays and winter holidays can lead to a more sensible time-sharing schedule.
4. Talk about Activities & Presents
The holiday season is the best time of the year for most children because they get to do all sorts of fun activities and get wonderful gifts from their parents. If you are co-parenting, you should discuss how you and the other parent will divide events and gifts with your child.
After all, a child might not like ice-skating the first time, so they may not want to go a second time with the other parent. Receiving a duplicate gift from another parent or relative can also put a damper on Christmas morning.
Parents should also avoid attempting to “out-do” each other, especially if their financial situations are very different. If there’s a “big gift” that each parent wants to give a child, the cost of it can be shared and the gift can be given together.
5. Focus More on Special Experiences
At the end of the day, the holidays aren’t special because of how much money is spent on a child – they’re special because of the experiences children have and the memories they make. If you manage to get through the holiday season doing nothing more than sharing family traditions and spending time with your child, you’re doing it right.
Plenty of fun activities can be done for little or no cost, either. Consider going on a walk or drive with your child to look at Christmas lights or spending a night watching holiday-themed movies. If your holiday plans involve cooking, share your skills with your child and make your special meal together.
Although co-parenting during the holidays can be hard, it doesn’t have to be painful. Depending upon your relationship with your child’s other parent, some of the tips above can help make this season go a lot more smoothly than you expected.
If the holidays seem unbearable because the other parent is difficult with adhering to a set schedule or seems to be driving your child away from you, it might be insightful to discuss these issues with an attorney. Our lawyer at The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller can learn more about your situation and advise you of any legal options that make be available to you.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact us online.