The holidays can be tough for parents. While work may be quite hectic, things are usually busy at home with such logistical challenges as getting the kids to family gatherings, decorating and shopping as well as attending “A Christmas Carol” or enjoying some other family traditions.
The holidays are also a time to hone those co-parenting skills. The parenting plan may outline who has the kids on Christmas and who has them on Thanksgiving. It will likely include who is responsible for picking up and dropping off kids that do not yet drive. However, parenting plans won’t always consider if a beloved but rarely seen uncle has returned from a tour of duty, or perhaps the old neighbors the kids were close with are back in town for the holidays. Nor do parenting plans demand a positive attitude or a forthright willingness to work together and adjust the plan as needed – this comes from the co-parents themselves.
Tips for creating a positive environment
These are adapted from child behavior experts and but applicable to the parents:
- The kids come first: It is the parents’ job to make sure the children have the best possible holiday regardless of how a parent feels about seeing an ex-spouse or their family. This means that the tone for all interactions should be civil and accommodating whenever possible.
- Don’t forget about yourself: Rather than staying home feeling isolated, spend the holiday with your own family or good friends. That said, perhaps an empty house on Christmas Eve sounds blissful after a frenzy of cooking and shopping. There is no wrong solution if you are happy with your choice.
- Coordinate gifts: It’s generally best to coordinate on gift-giving with the co-parent. This shows the kids that mom and dad are still a parental unit when it comes to the family, and it puts both names on popular big-ticket gifts. It also sidesteps such issues as competitive gift-giving or duplicate gifts.
- Take the kids shopping: It also sets an excellent tone to take the kids shopping and to make sure they pick gifts for the other parent.
It starts with a good parenting plan
The best parenting plans with the highest chance for success are drafted collaboratively. An experienced family law attorney can work with clients and the other side to prepare one that works for both the children and the parents. Then it is up to the parents to make it work or to recognize when something no longer works as the kids get older.