The holiday season can be a stressful time. Parents generally have to handle all of the logistics of making the season magical for their children and tend to incur substantial costs while trying to do so. Planning family parties, making arrangements for travel and budgeting for gifts are all challenges that parents face during the winter holiday season. It can be much harder to manage those responsibilities when someone has divorced or separated from the other parents of their children.
Managing the holidays across two households can be particularly difficult. Thankfully, there are a few tactics that can help people minimize the challenges of co-parenting during the holiday season.
Have a schedule already in place
Trying to negotiate the holiday schedule the week before the big day will likely lead to disappointed expectations and conflict between the parents. Comprehensive parenting plans typically need to include terms addressing help parents will share or split holidays and other special events. The adults in the family should also communicate proactively with one another about when they will celebrate and if they will travel so that the entire family knows what to expect.
Coordinate gift-giving when possible
Some divorced and separated parents fall into the trap of competing with each other for the children’s favor. Holiday gifts are a common way that parents try to set themselves above each other. Instead of trying to outspend the other parent, coordinating the children’s gifts is often a better approach. Children can still receive what they like with less strain on the parents. Additionally, cooperating may mean that parents can afford high-ticket gift requests like gaming systems, phones and computers.
Maintain traditions whenever possible
Does the family always go to one grandma’s house on Christmas Eve and the other’s on Christmas Day? Has there been a history of serving certain meals on certain holidays? Those small traditions tend to have significance for the children in the family, especially if they have enjoyed them for multiple years. Parents can decrease how challenging the divorce is for their children by maintaining that sense of tradition when planning holiday celebrations.
One of the most important things that adults can do to make the holidays a pleasant experience for the children and the family will be to avoid conflict with one another, especially in front of the children. Such conflicts can take all of the joy out of their celebration. Ultimately, making the children the focal point of holiday planning can increase the chances of positive holiday celebrations instead of a painful reminder of what the children have lost.