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How to Navigate the Holiday Season While Co-Parenting

Splitting the holidays is a challenging task for most divorced families, especially when you’ve only imagined an idyllic, perfect holiday season for your kids. Holiday plans for separated or divorced parents differ from family to family, although they are frequently planned and determined at the time of the divorce. The majority of the time, this entails splitting up the holidays—either by rotating them year by year or by coming up with a more detailed arrangement that includes dividing the actual holiday.

There are several things you can do to try and make the transition easier for the children, even if it might be difficult for them to spend a holiday away from one parent or the other. Below are a few dos and don’ts for this holiday season so you can best navigate the holidays while co-parenting after a divorce.

Schedule in Advance

If you have an established holiday schedule, work with your co-parent to finalize all of the details of your holiday parenting plan, down to the minute. It is important to keep in mind that holiday visitation takes precedence over weekly visitation, so the holiday schedule will apply. Plan everything out in advance to avoid arguments at the last minute.

If you don’t have an established holiday schedule, it’s best to work together to schedule individual family gatherings that work for everyone’s schedules. For example, if your co-parent usually celebrates the holiday with their extended family, consider whether it would be beneficial for the children to maintain that tradition with the other parent. Try to be flexible with your schedule, even if it means cutting into your allotted time. Holidays spent with family should always be cheerful, healthy, and enjoyable for the children.

Consider Celebrating Together

While not the norm, some divorced parents get along so well that they can continue to share significant holidays. Some parents prefer to spend their holidays together as a family rather than splitting or rotating them.

There are many benefits to sharing holidays when co-parenting following a divorce, including:

  • Both parents get to spend face time with their children;
  • No disagreements regarding time allocation;
  • Little impact on the children’s holiday routine; and
  • The presence of both parents often brings the children great joy.

Be advised, however, that not all families respond well to this strategy. You must be able to interact with your co-parent without arguing or causing friction. It must be easy for one parent to invite the other into their home. This strategy can become awkward or impossible if one of you gets remarried or has more children.

Coordinate Gifts for the Children

Try not to compete with your co-parent over who can provide the best present. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where one parent runs out and buys everything on the kids’ wish lists, leaving the other parent to gift socks.

Remember, large gifts do not compensate for or improve the interrupted holiday routine. By communicating and coordinating what gifts to give to your children with your ex, you can ensure that they have an excellent holiday.

Communicate These Plans With Your Kids

While it may seem obvious, many co-parents get so caught up in communicating with one another that they don’t articulate these plans with their children.

Make sure your child understands the plan, that both parents will spend time with them, and that everyone is okay with it. You don’t want your children to feel guilty or unhappy about not being with you during the holiday, if possible. Additionally, you don’t want them to feel misinformed or excluded. Present your plans with joy so that they will feel certain and secure about the holiday schedule.

Make Alternate Holiday Plans

It’s not the end of the world if your child can’t join you for a significant holiday. Even if it’s a random Sunday, schedule your celebration for when you will next be in each other’s company. With so much to do around the holidays—baking, decorating, and shopping—there are plenty of ways you can still capture the holiday magic. You can both anticipate this being a really special day. You can even create a brand-new family tradition that everyone will cherish every year.

Enjoy the Holiday Season

Regardless of how your holiday plans end up panning out, be sure to take care of yourself. A parenting plan may, by its very nature, prevent your child from spending some holidays with you.

So that you are not alone and lonely during these times, make plans for yourself with family and friends. Spend your time engaging in activities that bring you joy. Make sure you have some distractions and backup plans available, at the very least. Taking care of yourself is crucial when going through a divorce. It is challenging to look after anyone else if you aren’t looking after yourself.

For years, Michael has been relentlessly fighting for the rights of Capital Region spouses, parents, and grandparents in virtually every aspect of family and matrimonial law. As a Partner at Tully Rinckey PLLC, Michael provides representation in matters relating to divorce, parental alienation, separation agreements, annulments, child custody, child support, modifications to child support and child custody, enforcement of divorce decrees, spousal maintenance, pre-and post-nuptial agreements, orders of protection and family offenses. He can be reached at or at (888-529-4543).

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