How To Co-Parent Through Your First Holiday Season After Divorce

holiday parenting time

No matter what you and your ex disagree on in your divorce, you are likely both in agreement that you want a happy, fun-filled holiday season for your children. Navigating through your first holidays since your split can test your co-parenting savvy, but with a few extra steps this season can be as merry and bright as ever. Use these dos and don’ts for no-stress holiday co-parenting.

Do: Review Your Holiday Co-Parenting Plan (And Make One If You Don’t Have One Yet!)

Unfortunately, some parenting time plans for the holidays are just vague enough to cause confusion, usually because they are decided at a time when the holidays are the furthest thing from parents’ minds during divorce. So take time now to go over your plan and look for any items that may still need to be clarified or worked out with your ex. For instance, if you have Christmas Eve and your ex has Christmas Day, when is pick up and drop off time for the kids? If you are on relatively good terms with your former spouse, try to come to an agreement about items like this and what’s best for your children. Could you do a drop off early on Christmas Day morning? Would your ex at least agree to a later pick up time on Christmas Eve (compared to your usual swap time) so you get a little extra special time? Whatever you hammer out, get your plan in writing.

Do: Provide Your Children With Extra Assurance

Younger kids can be confused by the changes your family traditions, especially if your divorce and custody swaps are still relatively new. Discuss holiday parenting time plans with them beforehand in ways that help them adjust and feel excited about what’s to come. Provide assurance they they will get to spend time with both of you. “On Thursday we’re going to see the Nutcracker and then on Friday you and Mommy are going to have fun decorating the tree at her house, and then on Saturday you and I get to decorate!” Explain this well before the holiday so children have time to process the news and ask questions before drop-off. It can help to make a calendar for December with different festive dates penciled in. 

Don’t: Miss Special Dates & Occasions

If you told your child that you will attend the school holiday concert, go, and don’t worry about seeing your ex. Just “sweep your side of the street” by giving a cordial nod or wave if possible and taking your seat. Make it a point to be on time for all custody pick up/drop off times. This is always a good idea, but has added importance if your child feels worried or anxious about changes in holiday traditions and schedules. It doesn’t matter how much you can’t stand your ex; your children deserve to arrive to a holiday gathering – or an airport – on time. 

Do: Introduce your children to new romantic partner before the holidays

Your new partner has been invited to your family’s traditional Christmas morning brunch. If at all possible, you don’t want this moment to be the first time your children are meeting your new significant other. Take time before the holidays for a more casual meet and greet to help your children feel more comfortable and at ease. Also, do your co-parent a courtesy by letting them know about your plans to include your new partner in this year’s celebrations. A simple and direct conversation that explains your intentions and timeline can help head off accusations that you “blindsided” your ex. 

Do: Keep your feelings in check

No matter how sad or angry you may feel, you must pull yourself together around your kids. This means no crying around your kids about the divorce and no angry words with your ex during custody swaps. Your composure will make all the changes to your holiday traditions that much easier on your kids. It will also model to them how to resolve conflict and manage tough situations. If you must fall apart, do it when you’re alone, or with your therapist.

Don’t: Trash talk your ex in front of your kids 

At the big holiday dinner, some family member you haven’t seen since before your divorce may attempt to break the ice by telling you how they never liked your ex. Clumsy but well-meaning? Maybe. But appropriate when your kids are within earshot? Absolutely not. Remember, your children have a relationship with their other parent, and as a co-parent, it’s your job to support this relationship. (The same goes for your ex.) Politely set boundaries around this issue by not responding or giving a quick, “no divorce talk today!” response. If you just KNOW that certain relatives won’t be able to help themselves, consider reaching out before the gathering to say that for your children’s sake you will not be discussing the divorce. 

Don’t: Prolong Holiday Drop-Offs 

Assure your children that you love them, wish them a happy holiday with your ex, and remind them when they will be with you next. Do NOT have a prolonged farewell! If your kids are nervous or upset about their time away from you, engineering a long goodbye will only make them feel more anxious. You do not want to communicate, through words or body language, that anything is wrong, or that they have to tend to your feelings. An appropriate exit is much more tolerable for them than an angst-ridden, ambivalent one. If your kids are crying, do not use this as an opportunity either to gloat or to seek reassurance from them that they will miss you. 

Do: Support your co-parent’s travel plans

If your children will be traveling with one parent over the holidays, you and your ex must discuss beforehand what they will need to bring. Winter coats? A special suitcase? A favorite stuffed animal? Bring necessary items to the drop-off. Don’t be passive-aggressive by “forgetting” anything. Similarly, don’t yell at your ex if he didn’t bring what was expected. Protect your children from any transitional snafus by handling the situation like the adult you are and arranging, if possible, to deliver the goods as soon as you can.

Read More: 

6 Ways To Get More Holiday Parenting Time With Your Kids

Want to discuss your holiday parenting time arrangements? Have questions about custody? We can help. Start safeguarding your future with your kids today by coming in an initial attorney consultation. Gets answers to all your questions and get a clear strategy for moving forward. Call us at 888-888-0919, or please click the green button below.

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