Holidays are always stressful and adding a divorce to the mix makes it an infinitely more taxing time.  Figuring out how to co-parent and share custody during the holidays is an added stressor to the list.  Here are some ways to avoid having a holiday meltdown.

Have a Parenting Plan

While a parenting plan may be in place for standard visitation, there should also be a written plan in place specifically addressing the holidays.  Depending on the type of relationship you have with the other party, things can get complicated.  The best thing to do is to get help from a professional to draft a parenting plan that covers everything.  Some of the questions you want to address:

  • When each parent will have the children for the holidays, and which holidays?
  • Can the children leave town during the holidays?
  • How many days should each parent have the children?
  • How much advance notice does each parent need to give the other if wanting to take the children out of town for the holidays?
  • How will the holidays rotate?  Is it by year?  Every other year?
  • Are there any specific holidays you must celebrate together as a family?
  • Is there any flexibility in the holiday schedule?

Understandably these guidelines may seem like adding minutia for the sake of minutia, but a plan without any deviations ensures a smooth transition for the children and offers them stability during the holidays.

Since the plan is for the wellbeing of the children, it is important to leave the kids out of it.  Putting the children in the middle will only add to their anxieties.  The ultimate goal is to make sure the children are safe and happy throughout the holidays while with both parents.  This is one of the best gifts you can give your children – and you don’t even have to wait in line!

Consider COVID-19

Let’s face it – COVID-19 has changed the landscape of many activities and norms, including the holidays.  This creates an additional set of challenges for parents and children.  Both parents should respect COVID-19 health concerns and the concerns of the other parent about the pandemic.  That means if one parent has been traveling, he or she should consider what he or she may have been exposed to.  Don’t put your kids at risk so you can see them open gifts.  The key is practicing the right protocols to keep yourself and the children safe in order to make happy, memorable holidays.  With COVID-19 as a factor, proper planning and safety protocols can reduce stress and angst between parents.

A parenting plan can work well when the parents follow the plan, properly schedule any “one-off” instances or changes, practice flexibility, and most of all, be fair to one another and the children.

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season, and remember to celebrate in place!