The holiday season can be difficult enough to get through simply due to the high volume of traffic, the crowds in the stores, and money spent on gifts and food. It can be downright overwhelming and stressful if you are a divorced parent. There’s so much that goes into making the holidays amazing for your children, but it seems like the pressure is even higher when your children are going to split time between your house and your former spouse’s house. We’ve put together a list of tips for avoiding a stressful holiday season.
Consider the future
One of the most important things you can do to relieve stress is to consider the future. When putting together your Parenting Plan for the various holidays your family celebrates, you can’t simply look at this year. You need to look at the future. Many parents use an alternating schedule for every holiday, but you can be as creative as you like. You might include a “caveat” of sorts in your Parenting Plan that allows for each of you to have extra days, or to adjust the holiday schedule when needed, based on what is best for your children.
Children are the focal point
Your children should always be the focal point of what you do when it comes to building a parenting schedule for the holiday season. This can be a challenge for parents whose divorce was not amicable, or if one spouse is refusing to abide by the Parenting Plan (or support order). Remember, though, that YOUR issues with your ex play no role in your children’s relationship with him or her. Consider them when planning time spent with both sides of the family, keep them out of parenting disputes, do not talk negatively about your former spouse in front of them and enjoy every minute you get to spend with them.
Stick to the family traditions you have, or start new ones
Every family has some type of holiday tradition they do every single year. This year might be a little different since you are no longer a cohesive unit. Even if those traditions have to be tweaked slightly, you can still do the same things you’ve always done with your children. There’s also nothing wrong with starting new traditions, with just you and your child or anyone else you wish to include. When you are able to adapt your child will learn to do the same.
Make the custody exchange safe and comfortable for all
A stressful part of co-parenting after a divorce, during the holidays or any other time of year, is the custody exchange. Tempers can easily flare when exchanging custody over things like spousal support, child support, being late for the exchange, missing appointments, the child’s grades and much more. You need to make the exchange safe and comfortable for all involved by:
- Choosing a neutral location (firehouse, police station, library, the child’s school)
- Bringing a neutral third party (child’s teacher, or a neighbor,)
- Setting an exchange time and being on time
- Telling the child in advance of the exchange
- Avoiding speaking with your former spouse if arguments cannot be avoided
Avoid a competition for the best gift
If you are going through a divorce or are recently divorced, and this is your first holiday season, you might want to find the biggest and best gift for your child. You need to avoid the best gift competition with your former spouse as much as possible. The holidays are expensive enough with Pollyanna gift exchanges at work, cooking dinner for 20-plus family members, and buying gifts for your children. Getting involved in a competition for the best gift will only add debt to your name and cause unnecessary heartbreak – especially if you don’t “win.”
Truly, the best gift that you can give for your child is your “presence,” even more than your presents. Helping your child to feel secure and loved is the ultimate gift for life-long benefits.
Have an open dialogue with family
It goes without saying that your family will want to know what’s going on with you and your former spouse, especially when everyone comes over for the holidays and there’s someone missing from the guest list. This can be a difficult conversation if the divorce is not yet final or if you are only separated at the time. The dialogue with your family needs to be open and honest. Don’t try to hide that there are problems, especially if your children already know. (They will likely spill the beans at some point anyway.)
What about the grandparents?
If your child’s grandparents, from either side of the family, are still in the picture, then they must be taken into consideration for the holiday season. Your parents will likely be invited to all of the events you host or attend with your child but what about your former spouse’s parents? They, too, have a right to see their grandchildren, and that may mean being a bit flexible with your scheduling. After all, wouldn’t you want your ex to do the same if your parents wanted to spend time with the kids?
If the grandparents want to take them away for a trip, however, this could lead to a dispute, which is when the court might have to get involved and determine the best interest of the child. If the children are old enough to decide for themselves, it could be left up to them.
At Shepherd & Long, PC our skilled family law attorneys work to understand your family’s situation when dealing with delicate issues like child custody arrangements during the holiday season. Call our team today at 865-982-8060 or complete the contact form on our website to schedule a consultation in our Maryville office. The sooner you plan for the holidays the less stressful they will be for you, your children, and your former spouse. We proudly represent clients throughout East Tennessee.