The holiday season can be an especially stressful time for nontraditional families and blended families. When partners split up and share custody or visitation of their children, this can mean double the holiday celebrations and splitting time between many different homes. Children who grew up with divorced parents are all too familiar with this situation – two Christmases, two Thanksgivings, double the presents, hours and hours of driving back and forth, and living out of a suitcase for weeks at a time. From a parent’s perspective, the holidays can come with many additional sources of stress – more communication with their ex and coparent, bearing the financial burden of buying gifts without assistance, planning drop off and pick up times, and the additional sadness of coping with the fact that you might not have your own child at home on Christmas morning. Here are our tips for reducing the stress of coparenting during the holidays.
Plan Ahead, but Be Flexible
It can be helpful for co-parents to sit down and put together a plan for how they want things to go. This will obviously be easier if you have a good relationship with your ex, but it can still be attempted even if you do not have a good relationship. If you have a custody order that dictates how holidays should be split up, use that as your starting point for making a plan. Planning ahead will help avoid any last-minute disputes over who gets to see the child. But no matter how much you plan ahead, you’ll still have to be flexible. No plan is perfect, and unexpected things can always happen last minute, but clear communication with your ex can reduce stress and manage expectations.
Talk to Your Children
Make sure that your children know what to expect. If they are old enough to understand, have a conversation with them about who they will spend the holiday with, where they will get picked up and dropped off, who they will be staying with, and how they can communicate with you while they are away from you. The child may tell you what they would like to do. If they do share this with you, try to take their desires into consideration when planning with your coparent. It is very important that your child understands what is happening, especially if it is the first holiday season after a separation. Clear communication with your child can help avoid disappointment and frustration.
Discuss Gifts and Activities
Don’t forget that you’ll need to take extra planning steps when it comes to gifts. Depending on the age of your child and your views on Santa, you may need to discuss Santa plans with your coparent. It is also wise for each parent to communicate how much money they plan to spend on gifts for the child so that the coparents can avoid trying to out-do each other. If you want to get a large gift like a cell phone, consider going in on it together.
Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
Probably the most important thing that you can do to reduce stress of coparenting during the holidays is to prioritize your own mental, physical, and emotional health. The best gift you could ever give your child is a parent who is present, healthy, and attentive. It is important that you work through your own emotions in your own time and in your own way. Consider seeing a counselor to talk through the difficult emotions that can come with sharing your child during the holidays. It is perfectly normal to miss your child, be uncomfortable that they are spending time away from you, and be frustrated that you have to coparent with your ex. Remember to take care of yourself and lean on your support system during this time.
Consider Talking with an Attorney to Discuss Your Rights
If you want to discuss your child custody arrangement with an attorney or have concerns about custody during the holidays, consider talking with one of the qualified and experienced family law attorneys at Vic Carmody Jr., P.A. Our firm can handle your case with a balance of compassion and confidence to guide you through one of the most difficult times a person can go through. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case and learn about your options.
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