The winter holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy and togetherness for all. For divorced parents, however, it can also be a season that’s filled with some unique challenges – especially if you haven’t done this before.
Coordinating the holidays with your ex-spouse while ensuring your children have a positive experience isn’t easy. It takes lots of planning and good communication. Here are some practical tips worth considering.
Have a conversation with your ex-spouse as early as possible
The holidays can get very busy, very fast. You don’t want to leave discussions about your plans to the last minute. Flexibility and cooperation are the keys to a joyful holiday for all – but you don’t want any surprises. If you want to take your children to see “The Nutcracker” on a night that’s part of your ex’s parenting time, open negotiations before you buy the tickets and be prepared to trade. If your ex wants to keep the kids a little longer on Thanksgiving because their parents will be in town in exchange, for example, that might be a reasonable swap.
Consider all the possible approaches to the holiday schedule
Divorced parents typically either alternate holidays, split the holidays in half or divide the holidays according to a fixed schedule – but you can always choose to celebrate together. If your children are very young, for example, they may have some serious anxiety about whether Santa will know how to find them. If you and your ex-spouse can agree to put aside your differences and celebrate Christmas morning together, that may make the whole holiday easier for everyone involved.
Discuss how you want to handle expenses and the shopping
When you have kids, the holiday season can get very expensive, very fast. Try to work with your ex on a joint budget so that you avoid competing for your children’s favor through gifts. Decide who will buy which gifts, and whether you’re shopping independently or as a team. Approaching this together means that the kids won’t end up disappointed or receiving duplicates.
The most important thing you can do when you’re approaching the holiday season as a divorced parent is to put your own emotions and needs on the back burner and focus primarily on the kids. Your children may have some mixed feelings right now, so you want to keep things as stable and nurturing as possible.