For many, the holiday season is a time of family, relaxation, and enchantment; for others, it is a time of stress and a frenzy of events you feel obligated to attend. These hectic months can be even more tumultuous for you if you’ve recently gone through a divorce, and are experiencing the holidays for the first time as a single parent. 

While co-parenting brings its own challenges on a normal day, it can be especially difficult to navigate how you and your child’s other parent will divide this time that you previously spent together. Whether the two of you have managed to remain in an amicable relationship or not, it can still be painful to imagine not being there to see your kids open gifts on Christmas morning. There may also be lingering feelings of regret, or even bitterness, at how these circumstances came to pass. 

In addition to the emotional strain, co-parenting during the holidays can be tense because of a difference in traditions, scheduling conflicts, financial stress, new relationships, or geographical distance. While there is, unfortunately, no guarantee that this season will go as smoothly as you’d like it to, there are a few things you can do to make the best out of your situation. In this blog, we will reveal the 10 things you can do to minimize the stress of co-parenting during the holidays.

  1. Plan Ahead.

If the parenting plan that you created with your ex-spouse when you divorced does not go over how holidays will be divided, it is in your best interest to hash out those details sooner, rather than later. If you’re lucky enough to be on good terms with your ex, it may be possible for both of you to spend the day with your kids, but you’ll need to decide whose residence that will take place in. If you’re going to divide the day, at what time will the children leave one parent and go to the other? Or, will you simply trade-off holidays each year? Whatever your unique scenario, the point is that you don’t want to wait until the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas to decide on what will happen. 

Additionally, even if your parenting plan already dictates how the actual day of the holiday will be split, there will likely be other events scattered throughout the season that need to be accommodated. For example, if you know your extended family always has a Christmas Eve dinner, but that is not your scheduled day with your kids, you’ll need to discuss that with your ex in advance. 

  1. Communicate Effectively.

Clear, prompt, and efficient communication is a must, especially during the hectic holiday season. If you and your ex are in a place where you can sit down together to make plans and set expectations face-to-face, that is great! However, it is still a good idea to put what you talked about in writing, either through a text message or email. That way, there is a much less chance of confusion or excuses arising later.

  1. Prioritize Your Children.

It is unlikely that you and your ex will agree on everything as it pertains to your kids. However, no matter the state of your relationship or the events surrounding your separation or divorce, you likely both want what’s best for your kids, and it is especially vital to remember that their best interests should come first during the holidays. It may be easier said than done, but rest assured, it is not impossible. This is probably an emotionally stressful time for them, as well, especially if this is their first holiday season after the separation or divorce. They, too, may be wishing things could be different. So do your best to cut down on the arguing, encourage your kids to enjoy their time with their other parent, and keep things positive.

  1. Be Flexible. 

Yes, it’s important to plan ahead, keep your word, and stick to the agreements that you and your ex made – but nobody is perfect. Things come up and not everything goes to plan, especially when kids are involved. Remember to have a little grace, and treat your child’s other parent the way that you would want to be treated if the roles are one day reversed. 

  1. Create New Traditions.

This is a great opportunity to create new traditions with your kids that can help make the holidays special and memorable in a different way. Instead of dwelling on the past or on negative thoughts, focus your energy into moving forward. Some possibilities might be:

  • Start a silly ritual
  • Sit down to watch a festive movie together
  • Write Christmas cards for good causes (such as to soldiers overseas or seniors in a nursing home)
  • Bake a signature treat
  • Make your own Advent calendar
  • Gift your kids one book and spend time reading it together
  • Develop your own unique thing to try!
  1. Seek Professional Help As Needed

If disputes arise that seem to have no resolution, or if the current parenting plan simply isn’t working anymore, it may be time to seek the assistance of a skilled family lawyer. While you don’t want the holidays to be a time of conflict, especially for your kids, the problems will likely only grow if you don’t take the time to work through them in an effective way.

Mediation is a productive way to have an open and honest conversation about the issues in your co-parenting relationship, as well as benefit from the experience and guidance of a family attorney who can help you come up with unique solutions that work for you. A mediator cannot impose a settlement on you that you don’t agree with, so you and your ex remain in full control of the outcome. 

Hembree Bell Law Firm Wants You And Your Family To Have A Joyous And Restful Holiday Season

Our lead attorney, Hannah Hembree Bell, has been in your shoes and knows how you’re feeling. In fact, she created the firm so that she could build a team of compassionate and exceptional family attorneys who not only resolve your legal needs, but build a relationship with you in the process, and help you achieve the vision you have for your life. Call today to schedule your free initial case evaluation and learn more about how we can serve you this holiday season!

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