Co-parenting during and after a divorce is often one of the most difficult parts of ending a marriage. Even if most aspects of a divorce are decided on with relative ease, shared custody, especially during the holidays, can be a particularly tough area to navigate.
In this article we offer some tips for how to approach shared custody during the holidays with as little stress as possible.
#1 Alternating vs. permanent family holidays
Depending on your family traditions, you may wish to alternate holidays, switching every year. In other cases, you may find that a more equitable arrangement involves permanent “hosts” of certain holidays. Have an interfaith family? It may make most sense for one parent to always have custody during Jewish holidays, and another at Christmas and Easter. If one family has a large local family with a strong tradition of family Thanksgiving feasts, it might make sense for the kids to spend Thanksgiving with that parent.
#2 Make your holidays special without “one-upping” your co-parent
Some holidays make a big splash, and it can be hard to avoid feeling like you’re missing out if you’re not there. At the same time, “smaller” holidays may make you feel the pressure to pull out all the stops so that your kid gets a holiday experience. If you have the kids for a holiday that isn’t as “fun” as others, think about how you can make a new family tradition around that holiday. Have the kids for Labor Day weekend? Maybe you build a scavenger hunt together. Sad that you’re missing out on Halloween? Plan a weekend early in October that focuses on the preparations, whether that’s decorating pumpkins and making cookies or helping them pick out their costume.
#3 Plan ahead for whole-family events
Especially with school-aged children, there may be holiday events that both parents will be expected to show up for, like a school play or a holiday recital. If time spent together is difficult emotionally for one or both parents, try to plan ahead so that those feelings don’t disrupt the child’s experience of the event. You can plan where each parent will sit, or invite a trusted friend to help you navigate the audience and meet-and-greet after the event.
#4 Reassess your holiday plans every year or two
While knowing what to expect can be comforting for everyone, it may be valuable to reassess as time passes. With luck, your co-parenting relationship will become more comfortable, which will make addressing preferred changes a little easier. In addition, if one parent (or both) remarries or moves, there may be new factors that make reassessing your holiday plans ideal for everyone involved.
Raising children together—even through divorce—is a challenge, but communication and flexibility can help make it a success for parents and children alike. If you’re considering divorce in NH, we can help. Contact us today.