As divorced parents plan the family’s first holiday season under new parenting arrangements, there may still be lingering stress and tension from the divorce. Each parent undoubtedly wants to spend as much time as possible with the children, and even when formal arrangements have been agreed upon, it may be hard to stick to the schedule. Focusing on a solid co-parenting plan and keeping the children as the main focus can not only provide for a smoother holiday, it may also lay the groundwork 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 the parents to alternate each holiday on an annual basis. Sometimes parents may opt to split holiday time equally – perhaps Christmas morning is spent with the mother and Christmas evening with the father. Alternatively, parents may arrange a holiday schedule so that the children celebrate certain holidays the weekend prior to the actual holiday, and then spend the actual holiday with the other parent.
Regardless of the arrangement, there are certain considerations for the parents, which could help, ease some of the unwanted stress and tension of the season:
Communication is Key!
It is inevitable during the holiday season that issues arise and make an impact to agreed 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 parenting arrangements and issues that may arise help to foster a healthy environment for the children. Perhaps weather has played a role in plans being cancelled, 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.
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 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.
Start 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 the 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.
Happy New Year!