Co-Parenting During the Holidays:
7 Tips To Avoid Santa’s Naughty List.
Holiday season 2020 is upon us and celebrations can bring added stress to separating and divorcing parents who are in conflict. Add a pandemic into the mix and the merriest season becomes a pressure cooker.
What leads to conflict? Unless parents already have an agreement describing their holiday access plan, some parents have an unreasonable expectation about sharing holidays with the other parent. Planning for which parent will be “on duty” with the children during the holidays should start early. Because of COVID, many courts are not accessible for matters that are not deemed “essential” or emergencies, so it will be impossible to run through the courthouse doors with a motion asking a court to decide holiday access. Many judges will frown on last minute attempts to classify a holiday dispute as an emergency. All things being equal, parents will need to share time.
How can separating and divorcing parents protect their children from exposure to conflict during the holidays?
- Consider the importance of each holiday: When negotiating a holiday plan, first determine which holidays are important to each member of the family. Then consider how the holidays will be celebrated. Celebrations do not need to mirror the family next door.
- Create a detailed and specific schedule: The schedule should be specific to describe when each parent will be “on duty” for the holiday, clearly identify pick up and drop off times, and state where the exchanges will take place to avoid misunderstandings. Determine if there is a need to travel to celebrate, especially this year. Decide how those arrangements will fold into creating the plan and consider how the children will handle travel. If children are at an age to comprehend the schedule, share it with them. Children welcome knowing when they will be with each parent and extended family.
- Decide if the holiday will be shared or alternated. After children eat dinner with one family, will they feel guilty if they don’t want to eat another meal because the schedule requires a transition from one home to the other on the same day. It might be hard on a parent not to see a child on the holiday, but it may be better for the children. Parents may need to expand their own support systems or take time to do something for themselves if their children are with the other parent.
- Consider family traditions when crafting a parenting plan. Remain open to creating new traditions and ways to celebrate given the family’s transition. Parents can avoid being “naughty” this time of year. Let children be children and enjoy the holiday. No parent wants to hear from an adult child years later that holiday memories were marred because parents argued during the holidays.
- Don’t make your children feel guilty. Parents may feel sad because they aren’t seeing their children for the holiday. Endeavor to avoid making children feel guilty. Children will be surrounded by family members who may not think highly of the other parent. While it may seem supportive of one parent to bash the other, make sure relatives don’t speak negatively about the other parent in front of the children. Sharing pictures with the other parent of their child opening or playing with new gifts is a great way to spread joy.
- Joint celebrations where possible. If it’s possible, consider celebrating some portion of the holiday together. This might be difficult if the separation is new and emotions are high. But what a wonderful role modeling message for children.
- Presents. Let children take presents back and forth between homes. They are excited about the gifts they received. After all, the presents belong to the children, not the adults. Purchase a gift for the other parent from the child to send a positive co-parenting message. If a parent has another child, send a gift for the step-sibling from your child. Discuss comparing the gift list to avoid buying duplicate gifts and “out-gifting” each other. Parents can also purchase gifts and let their child know the presents came from both parents.
Parents can work together to ensure that children are immune from the chaos of celebrating the holidays during a pandemic.
BONUS: Check out Divorceify’s FREE and easy to use Holiday & Vacation Schedule Tool.