Whether you’re in a blended, separated, recently divorced, or single-parent family, it’s never too early to plan for the holidays. Our team at PURCELL STOWELL PC shares brief thoughts on navigating the holiday season.
Holiday plans, as with all parenting plans, should be focused on the children and not on the parents. There is often conflict between the family traditions of each parent. I have had many cases where the parties just wanted to fight to preserve their family traditions, regardless of the age or impact the conflict had on the children. I constantly try to remind these clients that children do not care about what specific day their holiday celebrations occur. In fact, most children would prefer to have more holidays to celebrate. Two Christmas’? Yes, please! If a holiday plan can’t accommodate all of the traditions of both parents, start new traditions. Move old traditions to different times that fit within the parenting plan. It isn’t the specific time or even the tradition that matters. The children only want to have quality time to celebrate the holidays with both of their parents.
Holidays are stressful in the best of times. Throw a divorce into the mix and the stress level multiplies exponentially. To help lessen the stress, be very clear in your custody agreement about both the exact time and location of the holiday custody exchange. Saying that a custody exchange will occur “On the Christmas Eve” leaves a lot to be misinterpreted. Better to say “On Christmas Eve, the custody exchange will occur at 7 pm at Mom’s house.” If you and your ex are getting along, you absolutely can adjust this arrangement to a schedule that better fits your needs. If you are not getting along, however, the court order is clear, so no game playing/ruined holiday plans can occur. It is an oldie but a goodie – better safe than sorry.
Navigating the holidays can be a challenge for separating families not only for the changes in custody, but also because of potential changed financial circumstances. It is important for families to consider their budgets throughout the year, but to also avoid compensating for the separation by trying to “out do” the other parent, or buy the whole toy store to make your child feel like everything is normal during the holidays. Instead, take a moment to appreciate the time you have with your family; encourage your child to have a great holiday with the other parent; and build new traditions that work into your new circumstances. Your child will remember the happiness they felt and the stress-free feeling of the holidays, not which parent had more boxes under the tree.