Holidays can be a great time to bond with your children and maybe even let your own inner child come out to play.
However, if you and your spouse have divorced, the holidays may be more complex to navigate. Luckily, with a little planning and communication, co-parenting during the holidays can be just as fun for your children as they were before the divorce.
Creating a co-parenting plan for the holiday
A co-parenting plan – also called a “custody and visitation agreement” is a legal agreement created within a divorce settlement. As explained in Psychology Today, a co-parenting plan details how much time each parent spends with the kids, how day-to-day schedules are organized, and how all decisions about the kids will be made, among other guidelines. ItsOverEasy.com provides tools to help parents create these agreements during the uncontested divorce process.
However, even with a plan in place, co-parenting during the holidays can be more complex because the normal schedules are different.
Whether you or your spouse are spending time with your kid(s) separately or together, developing a solid holiday helps to reduce anxiety and ensure the kid(s) have a fun, memorable experience.
Plan Holiday Events In Advance
Plan holidays well in advance in order to ensure the occasion goes as smoothly as possible. Involving the kids in the planning process will also make it less likely for them to complain about the activities chosen if they have participated in what events will happen.
This will also reduce any anxiety you or the kids have in anticipation of a holiday spent with both parents. If the kids know they have things to look forward to, they will be more excited.
As a young child, holidays are some of the most formative experiences. Thus it is important to make sure your kids have fun, despite you and your spouse’s divorce.
it’s best to fully plan the activities and events that will occur. We’ve provided a few activities below which should work for a variety of age ranges, from toddlers to teenagers.
- Bake holiday desserts like cookies, a gingerbread house or delicious peanut butter treats.
- Decorate the house with lights, ornaments and cute printable holiday graphics.
- Go camping.
- Work with a charitable organization.
- Create holidays cards or homemade gifts for family and friends.
- Take a road trip to visit a national park or nearby city.
What to consider when co-parenting during the holidays
1. Age of the children. This could determine the length of time spent and what activities are planned. For example, babies and toddlers will likely spend a shorter amount of holiday time with each parent, Teenagers and college age kids will typically have longer holidays and the ability to spend longer stretches of time with one or both parents.
2. Length and type of holiday. Younger kids will be limited in their activities as they require frequent attention, while older kids will be able to do things like travel or work on family projects.
3. Traditional family events. If your kids are accustomed to spending holidays with grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., planning events around relatives will promote consistency and well-being.
4. Relationship between the ex-spouses. The interaction with your ex spouse will determine if the kids spend time with each parent individually, or together as a group.
5. Religion. Spouses may have different religious traditions. In these cases, it’s best for spouse to work together to ensure the kids have equal knowledge of and exposure to religious traditions.
6. Holiday work commitments. Schedules need to be coordinated in case either spouse has to work for some portion of a holiday.
7. Pre-negotiated holiday schedules. The entire co-parenting agreement should be outlined and presented with your final divorce settlement. This will create a solid foundation for you and your spouse to move forward with your kids and each other during the holiday season.
8. Gift-Giving for the kids. If your holiday includes gift exchange, collaboration with your spouse about who is purchasing what gift is the most effective way to plan. This ensures you both know what has been purchased and what has not, and also allows you to coordinate on larger gifts.
For example, you and your ex might want to share the costs of an expensive present, but set up the gift at one spouse’s house. If you cannot peacefully communicate with your spouse, you can work with each other by email or a shared Google document.
9. Gift-Giving for parents. Taking your kids to select a gift for your ex-spouse is a consideration that is sometimes overlooked. This teaches children about empathy and shows them that you still have positive feelings for the other parent.
Co Parenting Scheduling Ideas
- Alternate the holiday. For holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, some parenting share holidays according to alternating years. This ensures that each parent enjoys a holiday every other year.
- Split the holiday. Another option is to split the kid’s time in a single day or across several weeks. One parent has the kid(s) in the morning / early afternoon, and the other parent has the evening. If the holiday spans several weeks, you can easily divide the time 50/50 with your spouse.
- Share the holiday. This option may not be suited for all, but can work for parents that have a friendly, no-conflict relationship. In this scenario, both parents come together to spend time with the kid(s) as a family unit.
- Schedule the holiday with each parent on different days. In this scenario, the kids will enjoy the holiday twice – once with each parent. Kids who get to experience a holiday twice will consider themselves twice as lucky.
Holiday co-parenting plans should be carefully set forward within your divorce settlement agreement. This agreement will provide the overarching structure for how holidays are managed throughout your kid’s childhood.
Your children’s ages should also be carefully considered in the holiday plan. The agreement could transition through phases as the kids get older. For example, your holiday schedule might include one set of plans from the ages of 8 – 12, with a new arrangement from ages 13 – 18.