Holidays can already be a particularly stressful time of the year; and what about for separating or divorcing parents and their children?
How do we keep the holiday spirit alive in the midst of everything else that is going on during this time?
Well… we know that nothing ruins the holidays more for you and your children, than fighting over holiday plans with the other parent.
In fact, being prepared and planning in advance can greatly reduce potential problems. It also gives you and your family the opportunity to experience the positive side to the holidays, such as, being surrounded by supportive friends and family and appreciating what we do have in life.
So with keeping in mind that that best defense is planning and preparation, let’s look at what you can do, as a separating or divorcing parent, to make the holidays a more pleasant time for you and your children.
Create a Holiday Schedule
If you’re in the middle of a divorce or custody matter, it’s important that you think about how you want future holidays to look for you and your children. One of the best ways you can decrease stress around the holidays for you and your kids is to develop a holiday schedule now, which maps out your plans for holidays to come. Although Minnesota law doesn’t require it, it’s a good idea to address holidays in your custody order or divorce decree.
Holidays Included in a Holiday Schedule
Most typically, these are the major holidays that would be addressed in a divorce or custody order:
- Christmas Eve,
- Christmas Day,
- Thanksgiving Day,
- The Child’s Birthday,
- The Parents’ Birthdays,
- Mother’s Day,
- Father’s Day,
- Memorial Day,
- Independence Day,
- Labor Day,
- New Year’s Eve,
- New Year’s Day,
- President’s Day,
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day,
- Veteran’s Day,
- Columbus Day,
- Rosh Hashanah,
- Yom Kippur.
The above holidays are listed only as a reference, and some may not apply to your family. The most important thing to remember is that you can choose to designate whichever holidays you’d like and as many holidays as you’d like with the other parent. For example, some parents also include Grandparents’ birthdays in the holiday schedule, as well.
How does a Holiday Schedule impact Parenting Time?
The idea behind incorporating a holiday schedule in your custody order or divorce decree is that when holidays are specifically addressed, they legally trump the regular parenting time schedule. In other words, let’s say that the kids regularly spend every Sunday with Dad. If Mother’s Day was a designated holiday with Mom, then the kids would spend that Sunday with Mom instead of Dad.
What to Consider When Making a Holiday Schedule
In addition to thinking about what holidays you and the other parent value, you’ll want to consider what holidays are important to your children. For instance, if your children have grown up looking forward to Easter egg hunts up north at your in-laws’ farm, you may want to maintain the tradition and designate Easter to be spent with the other parent.
Generally, it’s best to maintain traditions that your children have enjoyed and also to be open and flexible to starting new traditions of your own. Depending on your children’s ages, it may be worthwhile to include them in these decisions and seek out new traditions that match their changing needs and preferences.
It may also be beneficial for the children to experience some holidays with both parents. For example, maybe you designate Christmas Eve with Dad and Christmas Day with Mom, or vice versa, again taking into consideration current traditions and plans with extended family.
As mentioned previously, when working together on a holiday schedule, parents can address holidays in as much or as little detail as they like. However, when it comes to incorporating the holiday schedule into your custody order or divorce decree, it’s usually best to include language specific enough so as to prevent conflicts down the road, but also flexible enough to accommodate special circumstances that may arise and the changing needs of your children.
Why Develop a Holiday Schedule?
Perhaps one of the best reasons to use a holiday schedule in your custody order or your divorce decree is that it’s a plan that’s specifically based on your family’s own specific needs and wishes. It also keeps parents in the driver seat. Meaning, parents, rather than a court judge, are the ones making the decisions that impact how their children are raised. After all, you, not a judge, know what’s best for your children.
In addition to incorporating a holiday schedule into your divorce or custody order, it’s ideal if parents can talk and plan out additional holiday details, such as, negotiating times, location and transportation, if possible, at least a couple weeks before the holiday. It may be useful, depending on the holiday and your particular family, to coordinate gift-giving for the child as well.
Basically, it all boils down to the the fact that the more planning and arranging of these details that can be done before the holiday, the more time, energy, and desire everyone has for celebrating the holiday.
Planning holiday schedules is effective at reducing family conflict and tension because everyone involved knows what to expect ahead of time.
Not to mention, advance planning has become necessary in some cases, since some children are now faced with multiple visits, and may be trying to coordinate the holiday with divorced or separated parents, step-parents, and grandparents all in different places.
What do you think?
What are your thoughts or concerns about developing a holiday schedule? Or maybe you have additional recommendations for divorcing or separating couples on how to enjoy the holidays?
We’d love to hear what you have to say; please share your comments with us!
Child Custody, Parenting Time, and the Holidays
The holidays are usually a great time for children. However there is one sure way to spoil a child’s experience. When both parents are fighting, being petty over little things, and putting their wants first, the child will often lose. This is true in general, but can be especially painful during what should otherwise be a joyous and happy time for the child.
The Parenting Time Trap
Holidays can often be a special time. Along these lines, parents may place great importance on this time, and rightfully so. However, because of this importance it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that this is the time to dig in one’s heels and “assert my parenting rights”.
I’m not suggesting any parent should roll over to unreasonable demands to the other. Nor should any parent facilitate contact that would put their children in danger. With this in mind, here are some suggestions to make the holiday experience as best as it can possibly be when there are parenting time issues.
Ten Ideas for Holiday Parenting Time
- The best interests of the children should come first … always
- Holidays can be a great time to build the relationship between parent and child. This goes for both parents
- Court-ordered parenting time schedules, which should include holiday provisions, are still the rule …
- … But flexibility can also go a long way towards building goodwill with the other parent and making it a better holiday time for your children
- Along those lines, building in some holiday time for each parent with the child is often the best strategy
- Understand that the other parent’s holiday decisions are sometimes based on family decisions, not just his or her own. Sometimes he or she may not be able to control a schedule conflict
- Usually, each parent places the same amount of value and importance of spending holiday time with their children
- Usually the children, especially younger ones, place the same amount of value and importance of spending holiday time with each parent
- One side is not “losing” if they generously offer flexibility to accommodate what’s best for their children
- Lastly, if any disputes over these issues go to court, a judge is generally going to be very underwhelmed with the party behaving unreasonably and disregarding the interests of his or her children. This may be especially true for behavior during the holidays.
Happy Holidays to everyone. I hope no one has to deal with bad custody situations during this time.