As divorced parents plan the first holiday season under new family arrangements, there may be some tension from the divorce lingering around. Each parent will want to spend time with their children, and through formal arrangements may have been agreed upon, but may be hard to stick to. You should focus on creating a co-parenting plan that you both can agree to. The main focus should be your children and providing a happy holiday, which may also lay the basis for the New Year to come.
Co-parenting arrangements come in all forms and are tailored for the unique needs of each family. A common arrangement is for parents to annually alternate each holiday. Sometimes parents may choose to split holiday time like Christmas morning is spent with mom and the evening is spent with dad. Another arrangement is to have children celebrate certain holidays the weekend before the actual holiday, and they can then spend the actual holiday with their other parent.
Regardless of the arrangement, there are certain actions parents can take, which could help ease some of the unwanted stress during this time of year:
- Communicate: It is expected that during the holiday season that issues arise and make an impact to agree upon plans. Being able to communicate respectfully and directly with the other parent creates a positive atmosphere and alleviates frustration during an already stressful time of the year. We should all be mindful that nonverbal communication between parents creates just as much, if not more, of an impact than words that are spoken in the children’s presence. Parents that take a unified, respectful approach to parent arrangements and issues that may arise helps to foster a healthy environment for the children. Perhaps the weather has played a role in plans being canceled, or a family member’s visit has been moved to a different day/time. When parents are open to cooperation and flexibility, it helps to ensure that the children have the best holiday possible. While it may not always be possible (or expected) to adjust the schedule, being able to communicate possible problems allows alternate plans to be made.
- Focus on the Children: Families celebrate various holidays and traditions that create lasting memories with the children. While being able to introduce the children to certain traditions is important, the main focus of any parenting arrangements should be to ensure that the children have the best holiday possible. Sometimes it seems there just aren’t enough hours in the day for everything a parent would like to do, and when the time is shared between both parents during one holiday, it can be even more difficult to fit in all the activities a parent would like. Perhaps some activities can be enjoyed either before or after the holidays, allowing the children to fully enjoy the time with each parent. Taking a child-centered approach to the holiday and showing respect for each parent’s role creates a thread of continuity in families that are now in two homes.
- New Traditions: One of the most stressful parts of the holiday season for newly divorced parents is that many elements of the holidays change due to physical separation. Sharing parenting time can be stressful as the children will be enjoying different activities with the other parent. By starting new traditions with the children, each parent can allow the children to create new memories, rather than focusing on how things “used to be.” The holidays tend to be stressful, regardless of specific family circumstances. The first holiday season after a divorce may be especially hard, as the whole family is adjusting to a new life. With careful planning and cooperation from both parents, the holidays can provide great memories and wonderful moments for the parents and children alike.
It is always best to be flexible during the holiday season. Even if you and your former spouse have an agreed upon holiday arrangement, there are things that can pop up out of nowhere. There may be situations where something last minute pops up and it may require a change in plan. These are the moments where it is best to be flexible, so your children don’t end up having their holiday ruined. Don’t forget, just a holiday like Thanksgiving and Christmas, only occur once a year, doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate it more than once. If your children won’t be with you on a specific holiday, you can celebrate the holiday during the weekend before or after. If you have any questions or if you are looking for representation for your divorce, give Shaffer Family Law in Chandler a call. We can help make sure that the holiday plan that is arranged is fair for all those involved. Call us at (480) 470-3030 today!