While the holiday season is meant to be a fun and enjoyable time with family and friends, the season often brings extra stress and challenges to our lives. The holiday season can be especially difficult if you are splitting custody time with a former spouse or partner.
Not having your children with you for the entire holiday season takes some getting used to, but co-parenting over the holidays can be complicated even if you have been doing it for years. Here are some helpful tips that apply to almost any situation.
Children come first
Remember that your holiday custody schedule takes precedence over your regular schedule. You might know and accept this, but it can still feel frustrating if Christmas happens to fall on your usual custody weekend and you must now split it with your co-parent.
Keep the focus on your children and the memories that you are making for them. Remind yourself that you want them to grow up and have fond memories of their holidays, regardless of which parent they were with.
Chances are that a drama-free holiday season with little to no conflict will make more of a difference to your children than which parent’s house they spent a holiday at.
Know that celebrations can happen anytime, so if you only get Christmas custody every other year, plan another special day to celebrate for your “off” years. Most children do not care which day the celebration is.
Be ready for schedule changes
While you must follow your holiday custody schedule in your custody order or agreement, do not be rigid about it. Changes of plans are almost a guarantee over the holidays. Someone may get sick, bad weather could interrupt travel plans or various other unforeseen events could occur, making a change in the schedule more convenient.
In unexpected situations, avoid demanding that you stick to the holiday schedule no matter what. Be flexible and as always, focus on what is best for your children.
Handling gift planning
Outside of schedule concerns, talk with your co-parent about what gifts they plan to give the children. You do not want the gift giving to turn into a competition between you and your co-parent not that you are apart, nor do you want to accidentally both get them the same gift.
The best situation involves both of you agreeing on how many gifts each of you will give the children and what the gifts will be. Perhaps you can share the cost of one major gift or agree that you will each get them one major gift to achieve a fair outcome.
Finally, take care of yourself and do not neglect your own needs. Feelings of sadness and loneliness are common over the holidays for people who are adjusting to no longer being part of a marriage or partnership.
Take advantage of invitations from friends or family who invite you to events. However, do not feel guilty or ashamed if you say no. Sometimes spending time alone is what you need to heal.
Keeping these ideas in mind will help make the holiday season a positive experience for you and your children.