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7 Ways to Co-Parent During the Holidays

We are on the verge of the holiday season. And, the most important of the holidays is spending time with the people you love. While divorced or separated couples may enjoy co-parenting, things may not be as smooth as they used to be during this time of year. With both parents wanting to spend time with their children, a little planning can help parents avoid tension, stress, and anxiety during the holidays.

The following tips can help you enjoy the holiday season without drama:

1. Have a conversation with your children.

In order to prepare for the holidays, the most important thing you should do is talk to your children (if they're old enough). For both parents, your children are your top priority.

If your children are old enough let them know what the holiday schedule is between you and the other parent. Remember, children thrive on a routine. So, it needs to be predictable for them

If your child has feedback about the schedule you and the other parents have decided upon share it with the other parent in the spirit of having the child’s voice heard. This does not mean your holiday schedule will change. But it gives the child some say in how they celebrate with both of you.

Be sure that they understand the situation, especially if it's your first holiday after a separation, regardless of their age. If they realize last minute that the holidays are different this year, they may get disappointed. Also, this is an opportunity to start new traditions.

It will be easier for them to cope with the holidays if they are prepared ahead of time. While it may take more than one holiday for them to accept this new normal, you can start them off on the right foot as soon as possible.

2. Maintain coordination with the other parent.

It is important that you communicate your holiday plans with your co-parent before the holiday season begins so that both of you are on the same page when it comes to holiday parenting time. Communication can be challenging, but coordinating holiday schedules now will help your family avoid potential stress and tension.

During this special time of year, remember that it isn't just about you, but also about your children. You are helping your children create lifelong holiday memories with both parents by sacrificing time with them in your home.

Occasionally, parents agree to parenting time around the holidays through divorce or custody agreements. For example, it is also possible for parents to swap holidays so that their children spend Thanksgiving with one parent and Christmas with the other. For a successful holiday season, communication is essential, no matter what your situation is.

Overall, during the holiday season, it is extremely important to establish a consistent and fair schedule that will be shared by both households.

The following ideas can help you plan your co-parenting holidays:

  • Even though co-parenting families cannot always stay together during the holidays, it can sometimes be an option.

  • Split hours during the holidays. You could allow your co-parent to spend the first half of Christmas Day with your child, and then your child can spend the second half with you. Your kids can share special moments with you during certain holidays if you both value them.

  • Alternating days; for example, dividing even and odd days;

  • Changing holidays every year. For instance, if you have the kids this Thanksgiving, then next year your ex will have.

No matter what you decide, don't interfere with the other parent's time. There is a great deal of conflict and pain created by this, which makes moving on difficult.

3. Coordinate gifts.

Holiday gifts often become excessive especially if there is a lack of coordination. Nevertheless, this may not be what parents would like for their children. Specify the number of gifts, money limits, and what is off-limits. A good example would be certain electronic devices or items that do not match your values. Parents should strive to keep their gifting practices similar so as to not create a bias for the child.

Also, keep in mind all the in-laws who may also be giving gifts, and share your guidelines with them. The earlier you establish this process, the easier it will be. You're going to have a much harder time reining in your gift-giving if you don't establish a reasonable plan from the beginning for co-parents who try to "out-do" each other with lavish gifts. Additionally, undoing entitlement in your child is much harder than preventing it.

4. Make sure you keep the shared family calendar up-to-date.

Keeping everyone on the same page is made easier with online shared calendars. Parents may even be required by some judges to share calendars, like Our Family Wizard.

As a result, make sure to update the shared calendar diligently whenever new events or activities occur. In addition to the children's school and extracurricular activities, doctor appointments, family celebrations, birthday parties, and vacations, there are also upcoming family events.

5. Start new traditions.

Trying to recreate past happiness can be difficult after a separation. When you focus on things you used to do, it may become obvious that your family has changed. New traditions should be started if your kids will miss Dad setting up the train set or Mom reading the story at bedtime.

Consider introducing a tradition from your childhood, such as digging up your grandmother's chocolate chip cookie recipe, or organizing a family trip to a local winter festival. Focus on being together and creating a family tradition you and your children will look forward to every year, whatever you do.

6. Be flexible.

In addition to good planning, maintain some degree of flexibility during the holidays to maintain a smooth co-parenting relationship. Despite our best efforts, we cannot anticipate everything that might happen. There may be times when you need to scale back your celebrations because your child is sick. There may be an unexpected visit from your in-laws.

The goodwill gestures you make as a co-parent make the process run more smoothly in the long run, as well as benefit your children.

7. Practice self-care.

In order to take care of their children well, parents must take care of themselves mentally and physically. This is especially true for co-parenting during the holidays. Keep your personal downtime protected, get enough sleep, and eat well during the busy holiday season.

You should attend friends' and family's get-togethers whenever you can, especially if your children are with their other parent. Do not hesitate to seek out third-party help if conflict or stress begins to escalate beyond your ability to handle, such as a therapist, mediator, or family lawyer.

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