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Co-parenting 101: Co-parenting Through the Holidays

December 23, 2021 Child Custody

The holidays are a stressful time for everyone, but especially for families that are experiencing a change in family dynamics due to a divorce or custody case.  For the children in the middle of a divorce or custody action, the holidays can seem unbearable. Depending on their ages, children can be feeling any number of emotions: they might be worried about the feelings of the parent who they are not spending the holiday with; they may be scared that Santa won’t find them if they are at the other parent’s house or at a new home; and in a worst case scenario, they might be fearful that their parents will fight and that the police will be called. The good news is that there are a number of things parents can do to help their children experience the warmth and happiness of the holiday season without all the chaos and anxiety. Here are some tips and considerations to think about when creating your new normal for the holidays.

  1. Be proactive when creating your holiday schedule: In a divorce or custody action, you will be asked to put together a list of the holidays that are meaningful to your family. You will then be asked to propose a schedule for how your children will share those holidays with your co-parent. A good holiday schedule should include the designation of the holiday, what times the child transitions will take place, where the transitions will take place, and which parent enjoys that time with the children each year.

When putting together your holiday schedule proposal, think about what traditions are most meaningful to you, with the understanding that some of these traditions may be equally as meaningful to your co-parent, or not meaningful at all to them. For example, if your family celebrates Christmas Eve each year, consider your co-parent having the children on Christmas afternoon each year and alternating the Christmas morning time. The important thing here is to be very mindful of transition times. Your children don’t want to get up from the dinner table with all their cousins on Thanksgiving to transition to the other parent- so consider making Thanksgiving a one-day holiday that is alternated each year.

There are many different ways to create a holiday schedule, so be creative and think about the impacts that your decisions may have on the children’s holidays.

  1. As always, be respectful to your co-parent: Don’t ruin you children’s holiday because you can’t help yourself and feel the need to have a high-tension conversation with your co-parent on Easter Sunday, in the middle of a parking lot, while transitioning the kids. Say hello to your co-parent, hug and kiss your kids goodbye and tell them to have a good time. Then get in your car and drive away. As hard as it can feel to you emotionally, it really is that simple to keep your kids happy.


  1. New Traditions are ok! With divorce or separation comes the need to develop new traditions, which can actually be a fun thing for your kids. Your kids won’t know that they picked out their Christmas tree on a different day than you used do it. All they will remember is how big the tree was and that they hung their favorite ornament. Don’t get bogged down with the details. Even if you now have your children every other weekend, there is still plenty of time to celebrate all your traditions. And just think, now you don’t have to worry about who is going to watch your kids while you shop for, and wrap, their presents! Send them along to your co-parent, shop away, and enjoy the quite time wrapping gifts with a cup of hot cocoa.