Co-parenting Over the Holidays

The end of the year is a busy time, filled with opportunities for children to make happy memories with friends and family. But for separated and divorced parents, the holiday season can be stressful. Even if you have a solid custody agreement in place, special occasions and vacations can throw a wrench in the works.  With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, now is the time to review your calendar. Make sure that you, your co-parent, and your children are clear on the schedule for this holiday season and the year to come.

Things to think about:

  • What do your kids need or expect?

Do your children look forward to celebrating certain holidays in special ways? Are there traditions or rituals that are important to maintain for them?

  • What’s in the best interest of your kids?

Splitting Thanksgiving Day between two households may work great for some kids, but be a terrible choice for others who have difficulty with transitions. Be realistic about what your kids can handle. And then be creative – maybe your children get two Thanksgivings, one on Thursday in one household and one on Friday in the other. Or maybe they celebrate Thanksgiving with one parent followed by the rest of the long weekend with the other.

  • What do you need?

Be honest with yourself about what is important to you. Do you need your children with you on your birthday this year? Or Father’s Day? Are there rituals that you would like to continue? Maybe you make your child’s Halloween costume every year and look forward to sharing your work with friends and relatives. Or perhaps there’s a religious or cultural holiday that you celebrate but your co-parent does not. Being clear on what is important to you and why can help you prioritize in your negotiations with your co-parent.

  • Holiday & Special Occasions to consider:
    • Secular, such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve & Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, etc.
    • Family, such as the child’s birthday, your birthday, other significant family anniversaries, etc.
    • Religious, such as Mawlid al-Nabi, Day of the Dead, All Soul’s Hallow, Christmas Eve & Day, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Easter, Passover, Beginning of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Yippur, Muharram, etc.
    • School Calendar, such as Staff Development days and early release days.
    • Summer Vacation

Effective holiday planning (and all co-parenting), require that you plan ahead, cooperate, communicate, and compromise. If it gets hard, seek help.

Your celebrations will look different now, in your reconfigured family, but they can still be filled with joy. Be sure to sit down with your kids in advance to share the calendar and answer any questions.  Your children have the right to love and celebrate with both parents. Doing the work behind the scenes to make that happen is best gift you can give.

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