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Co-parenting After Divorce: Navigating the Holidays

When you have always dreamed of a picture-perfect holiday season for your children, splitting the holidays can be an emotionally painful process for most divorced families. It varies from family to family what holiday arrangements are made, but in many cases, the parties involved set the schedule at the time of the divorce. 

Usually, this involves sharing the holidays - either by alternating them each year or by formulating a more specific plan that includes sharing the actual holiday itself. Children may find it difficult to spend a holiday away from one parent or the other, but there are things you can do to make it easier. After divorce, co-parenting can be challenging. 

Here are some tips for navigating the holidays after divorce:

Establish a schedule in advance

Be sure to confirm all the details of your parenting plan with your co-parent during the holiday season, down to the last detail. Holidays trump regular weekly visitation, so the holiday schedule takes precedence. Prevent last-minute disagreements by planning everything in advance. 

In the absence of a set holiday schedule, it's best to schedule separate family events that fit everyone's schedules. If your co-parent usually celebrates the holiday with their family, it would be nice for the kids to continue to enjoy that tradition with the other parent. Whenever possible, be flexible in your scheduling. Even if Grandma is only going to be in town on the actual holiday, it will be nice for the children to be able to see her. Enjoying happy, healthy, and fun holidays with your family will always be in the best interest of your kids.

Coordinate gift giving

In terms of gifts you will each give the children, it is best to coordinate with your co-parent. Avoid a situation where one parent buys all of the top gifts on the kids' lists, leaving the other to give socks. It's common for parents to pool their resources to buy big-ticket items together. Don't compete with your co-parent to give the best gift. Showering your child with gifts will not solve any problems because big gifts won't compensate or change the situation. Communicating with your co-parent will go a long way toward ensuring that the children have an amazing holiday.

Establish expectations

Make sure your child understands the plan, that both parents will spend time with them, and that everyone is comfortable and happy with it. As much as you can avoid it, you don't want your child to feel guilty or sad about not being with you during the holidays. It's also important not to make them feel confused or left out. Make sure you present your plans cheerfully so they can feel confident and secure.

Make shopping fun for your child

Consider helping your child purchase a small gift for the other parent if you can. By doing this, you will make your child feel proud and happy, and you will demonstrate your goodwill toward the other parent as well. It is more important to give than to receive during the holidays, so you will be teaching your child a valuable lesson. The act of helping your child buy a gift is actually a gift to them, even if you don't get along with your co-parent.

Arrange different celebrations

There's hope even if your youngster misses a major holiday with you. Even if it's just any old Saturday, schedule your celebration for when you will next be together. You may even establish brand-new yearly rituals that your entire family will look forward to.

The goal of New Jersey courts is to focus on the best interests of the child in determinations of custody, parenting time, and child support. If you are reading this and have questions about divorce or child support, don't go it alone. Call me and schedule a free 20-minute call with me to discuss your divorce case.

The contents of this blog entry are provided for informational purposes only. You should consult with an attorney to determine how the law applies to the facts of your particular case. Reading this blog entry does not create an attorney-client relationship with Kelly McGriff.


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