If you’re a newly separated or divorced parent, you may be contemplating the upcoming holidays with even more than the usual amount of stress. This will likely be the first year that you’ll be away from your children for all or part of Thanksgiving, Christmas, the first night of Hanukkah, New Year’s and other special days – and traditions – that fill this time of year.
Scheduling is crucial. If you already have a custody and visitation agreement in place, it should spell out how the kids will divide their vacation time and where they will spend important holidays. If you don’t have one yet, it’s essential to work that out sooner rather than later. It’s important for kids to know where they’ll be spending the holidays. It will help you with your planning as well.
Your attorney may recommend that you put something in writing even if it’s just for this year until you get a custody agreement finalized. You and your spouse may be able to work something out on your own. Even if you’re abiding by a custody agreement, communication is essential to coordinate the myriad holiday activities that involve your kids.
If you haven’t worked out a holiday custody and visitation plan yet, consider whether you want to trade off holidays or divide the kids’ time. If you can’t both see the kids on a holiday, you can find ways to celebrate a day or two before or after. Most kids don’t mind two Thanksgiving dinners over a four-day weekend or two mornings of opening Christmas presents at their parents’ homes. You can make new holiday traditions for yourself and your kids that don’t require being together on a specific day.
Some newly separated parents decide to celebrate their first holidays apart as a family That’s fine as long as you can get along and your kids understand that this doesn’t mean you’re getting back together.
There will many decisions to make and things to coordinate over the next couple of months. When you find yourself getting frustrated or angry with your co-parent, remember that your focus needs to remain on making the holidays special for your kids. Your family law attorney can help you anticipate possible issues so that you can resolve them before they put a damper on the season.