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Coordinating the Holidays Between Your Children and Your Ex

photo of a young dad and his daughter wrapping a gift together

The holidays can be a stressful time of year. Planning, decorating, cooking, and buying gifts is an overwhelming process, even for the most experienced party planner. The process becomes more taxing when you add children to the festivities, with the need for constant distractions and entertainment so parents can meet deadlines. Things become even more challenging when you balance your ex-partner’s desire to spend the holiday with your child with your own plans. It’s become common for parenting teams to break up and battle over who will be carving the turkey with their child and who will be eating alone. It adds unnecessary stress to all parties involved. Through communication and negotiation, you can make your holidays a little less stressful.

Some parents have the benefit of court orders that stipulate holiday visit rules, which makes this issue easier to navigate for some. Others need to work out their own holiday schedule with someone they may not necessarily get along with. Start out by planning the holiday schedule well in advance. You can plan the whole year if your schedule is more rigid and unlikely to change, or you could plan half of the year if schedule changes are frequent. Either way, planning in advance makes it easier to resolve conflicts as they arise.

Take Turns Spending Holidays With Your Children

A basic idea of what to do is outline the major holidays and split them up. In a year, if one person gets Thanksgiving, the other will get Christmas. Alternate the schedule every year, so that if one parent had Thanksgiving last year, the other parent will get Thanksgiving this year. Make note of important religious holidays while scheduling. If one parent celebrates Christmas and the other celebrates Hanukkah, give the parent their respective religious holiday. If both parents celebrate Christmas, one parent has the child on Christmas Eve and the other on Christmas Day, then switch the next year. Being balanced and fair with the holidays will lessen tensions and conflict.

Even with advanced planning, problems can arise. Work schedules can suddenly make a parent unavailable for the holiday, scraping any plans they had. When that happens, communicate the issue to the other parent. See if there is a way you can make up for the missed holiday or trade a holiday. If you can’t make something work, don’t worry. The celebration doesn’t have to happen on the actual day, and the event isn’t less special if it does. It’s important that you make time and plans to celebrate the occasion with your child.

Plan Your Own Holiday Celebration

Just because you don’t get to celebrate the actual day of the holiday, doesn’t mean you cannot celebrate. Plan your own event and activities for when you have your child to honor the special occasion. For example, have a Thanksgiving leftover meal with your child the day after Thanksgiving or open presents early on Christmas Eve. It is your holiday with your family, so make it as special and fun as you want. 

Holidays usually bring together family from all over the country and the world. Coordinating all those people can be tricky, so be sure to let your extended family know what is happening with your child for the holidays. It’s not fair to show up with or without them and not make them aware. Keeping out of town family informed will also make it possible to plan time with your child while they are in town. If not, see if your ex-partner will allow them to FaceTime or Skype the child for a few minutes to catch up and wish them a happy holiday. With all the technology available, it is easy to connect during the holidays.

Balancing your child’s life between two separated parents can be confusing and draining all year. During the holidays, it shouldn’t be exacerbated. It is a time of year where we need to set aside our differences and problems, even for a day, to celebrate our culture and family. It can be a time to bury the hatchet and resolve to work together for the sake of a child. It should be about making amazing memories for our children that will last a lifetime.

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