The holidays are often a difficult time for families with newly divorced parents. The custody agreement and parenting plan may have been worked out with the help of an attorney and possibly a judge, but seeing it on paper is different than a parent spending Christmas Eve alone because it is not their year. Conversely, if the parents plan on sharing the days, there could be a lot of driving and logistics to juggle and execute.
The primary objective is to make the transition as smooth as possible for the kids, but the parents will also need to address their own needs as well. Some will see it as a time for new beginnings, while others will see it as something to be survived.
Four thoughts for making it better
Advice from other parents who have been there include:
- The schedule can be adjusted: One or both parents may struggle to follow the agreement, and kids may have their ideas and priorities. In the spirit of the holiday, stay flexible and try to be accommodating when a cherished aunt or uncle comes home on military leave, the old neighbors come back to visit or there’s an unexpected opportunity for fun that the kids are dying to do.
- Start new traditions: If dad is in charge of Christmas dinner, try to build fun new traditions around it that appeal to the kids, such as eating takeout pizza instead of home-cooked ham or going to a movie. Do not underestimate the power of a second Thanksgiving or Easter celebration.
- Time alone: Perhaps the lead up to the holiday was stressful, and sitting on the couch watching TV is just what the doctor ordered. Another option is spending the holiday with your own family, or perhaps some good friends (who may not have their kids either). Do whatever feels right.
- It gets easier: The first year may have some scheduling glitches, or Plan A did not work as well as expected. Most agree that it gets easier as the family settles into a rhythm. It may also be necessary to formalize specific changes in the parenting plan to enable it to be a more relaxing time.
The holidays are a time for families to gather and be thankful. An experienced family law attorney can help make this happen by negotiating and drafting a workable plan that fits the needs of the children and parents. These legal professionals can also update a plan to reflect the age and needs of the children better.