Navigating the holidays during or after a divorce can be tough for adults – but it can also be tough for kids. Their schedules are changing and traditions they have come to know might be falling away. During this time, it’s important for both parents to work together to build an effective co-parenting plan.
Divorce is stressful, but with some teamwork, you can restore the joy of the holidays for your children. There are steps you can take to maintain stability and reduce conflict, giving your children the security and comfort they need in the midst of the changes that are happening.
At Diamond Legal, one of our priorities is helping you protect your family. One of the ways we do this is by guiding you through what to expect at each stage of your divorce.
Creating Security for Your Children
One of the most important things you can do for your children during this time is to create stability and reduce conflict. Even if you and your spouse are going through a rough time, if you can work together on a co-parenting schedule, you can make much of the process easier for your kids.
One way to do this is to establish a clear holiday schedule with specific dates, times, and locations that each parent will agree to stick to. This will give you both clarity so you can plan, but it will also give your kids a clear idea of what the holidays will look like. This can also equip you to be fully present with your kids during your time with them.
However, you should also expect to be flexible when necessary. During the winter holidays, illnesses pop up unexpectedly, blizzards can happen, and car troubles can appear out of the blue.
You should expect your spouse or ex to adhere to the agreed-upon schedule, but if an emergency happens, being flexible can make a huge difference. For example, let’s say your child comes down with the flu a few days before Christmas; instead of strictly sticking to the schedule, perhaps you and the other co-parent can discuss the situation and agree to revise the dates to allow for the child’s recovery.
This shows understanding and compassion, prioritizing the child’s well-being above all else. (Not only does this help to keep the peace and teach your child that they come first, it also shows the court that you have your children’s best interests at heart.)
Coordinating Gift Giving
Although talking with your spouse or ex about gift giving may not be the happy conversation it once was, planning out gifts together can help avoid duplication and overspending. It can also prevent awkward situations for your children.
By doing so, you can both agree on who is buying what to avoid two of the same gifts. You can also avoid one parent buying extravagant gifts while the other parent can’t afford to spend the same.
By communicating and coordinating your gift-giving efforts, you can ensure that your children receive thoughtful, meaningful presents without going overboard. This will also allow you both to focus on quality time and creating or maintaining traditions that can create great lasting memories for your kids.
Many things will change during and after your divorce, but creating a loving holiday experience for your children shouldn’t be one of them.
Tips for Successful Co-Parenting During the Holidays
The key to successful co-parenting during the holidays (and really, any time) is to maintain open and respectful communication. This doesn’t mean you have to be “friends” with your co-parent (this just isn’t always possible), but it’s important to have communications about holiday arrangements well in advance so that both parties have time for scheduling and preparations.
If you are in the midst of a divorce, you may need to communicate through your lawyers – this is perfectly fine. We often assist our clients in this way.
Whether you are able to communicate directly or need to go through your attorneys, having these conversations early on will allow you to avoid last-minute conflicts and ensure that both parents have the chance to spend meaningful time with your kids.
If you need help keeping your co-parenting schedule organized, you may find that a co-parenting app will help with communication, schedule coordination, and shared updates, streamlining the process and reducing the chances of misunderstandings or miscommunications.
Whenever it’s possible, try to make sure that both parents get equal (or close to equal) parenting time. If extenuating circumstances apply or it is not possible or safe for your children to spend time with your spouse or ex, please follow the guidelines that have been set – but if these situations don’t apply, working toward equal parenting time can do a lot to protect your children’s wellbeing.
Lastly, realize that this will likely be a stressful time for you, due to the changes that are happening. One way to make this time easier is to create new traditions with your kids. You might start a new tradition of a cookie baking day or a Christmas movie night, or you might take your kids out for breakfast at their favorite diner. Maybe you can go ice skating or check out a new hobby or craft you’ve all been wanting to learn!
Planning Holiday Custody Arrangements
If your kids are old enough (and if it won’t cause drama elsewhere), you might consider involving your children in the decision-making process around holiday plans. Asking for their suggestions and preferences can help them feel valued and heard – and you’re more likely to get their buy-in up front.
For example, you can ask your kids if there are any specific holiday activities they would like to do with each parent. You might find out the traditions that are truly important to them, even if those traditions are things you might have otherwise overlooked.
If you’re having trouble splitting time equally during the holidays (perhaps due to schedules), you might also consider alternative schedules. Some co-parents find that alternating years works well to ensure a fair distribution of parenting time: Mom gets the kids on and around Christmas one year, Dad gets them the following year. This doesn’t work in every situation, of course, but it’s another option to consider.
Whatever you decide, work with your attorney to create a detailed holiday custody schedule. This will help to avoid last-minute disputes and avoid additional stress during an already hectic time.
Managing Expectations and Communication
Once you have everything figured out, make it a point to communicate clearly with your kids and keep them informed about holiday plans. This will help you set appropriate expectations, reducing stress and confusion.
If your children are younger, creating a visual plan – like a type of calendar – may help them to better understand and plan for different events and transition times. If they’re older, giving them quick reminders can help them keep everything straight and avoid stress.
If your kids want to talk with you about what to expect, do your best to listen and interact with them – and if they want to tell you about what they did with their other parent, let them. This is a good way to keep lines of communication open so that they’ll be willing to discuss other questions and activities with you down the road.
Your Attorney’s Role in Developing a Co-Parenting Plan
If you’re able to communicate openly with your spouse or ex, working together is the best way to keep your co-parenting relationship running smoothly. This isn’t always the case, though – and if negotiations become difficult or communication breaks down, your Diamond Divorce Law attorney is there to help.
We’re here to answer questions, help you decide upon options, and protect your parenting rights while helping you negotiate an agreement that best fits your kids’ needs. If you’re ready to talk with an attorney, give us a call – our team is here to help.
DISCLAIMER: Any information contained herein is solely for informational purposes and is only applicable in the state of Illinois. While it is important that you educate yourself, nothing herein should be construed as legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. For specific questions, we urge you to contact a local attorney for advice pertaining to your specific legal needs.
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