In the course of a divorce involving children, the parents will need to develop a parenting plan that determines how they share time with the children, including various holidays and special occasions.
For many families, the December holiday season is one of the most important family times of the year, and requires special thought about how best to plan it around the new family relationship where the parents are not living together. This can become a difficult conversation, since the holidays are laden with so much emotion and meaning for each parent.
It may help to keep in mind that what is best for the children is parental cooperation. This thought can help make it just a bit easier to make room for flexibility and compromise to achieve the goal of a good holiday experience.
If it feels like the two of you are not able to work through these arrangements on your own, it can be very helpful to involve a neutral child specialist, family therapist, or family mediator. This provides for a more structured and moderated conversation at a location that may feel safer to both parents. The mediator, therapist or child specialist can provide guidance on child needs and development, ideas that have worked for other families, and methods for getting past “stuck” points.
From a practical perspective, it often helps to look farther into the future than just the currently upcoming holiday season. A good way to help plans feel fair to both sides is to alternate them – i.e. the time Parent A gets in year 1 goes to Parent B in year 2, and vice versa. This helps each parent feel like whatever the specific arrangement is this year, what goes around comes around. It is easier to reach agreement when the agreement feels balanced.
Assuming a two week school vacation and a family that celebrates Christmas, an arrangement we often use to keep the back and forth to a minimum is Parent A has the children from the time school lets out through Christmas morning, and Parent B has the children from Christmas morning until school starts again. Even if the time split is not quite equal because of where Christmas falls in the week in a given year, it should balance out over the years.
Alternatively, your family may have traditions around the holidays themselves, travel to visit relatives, skiing vacations, or other issues that may need to be considered in coming up with a plan that best fits your situation.
In the end, the best present you can give to your children is a stress-free holiday season.