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How to Handle Holidays as a Divorced Parent

Posted on in Child Custody

splitting holidays, Naperville Illinois divorce attorneyFall’s official arrival means the holidays are just around the corner. Three major approaching holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, are all great times to get together as a family. All three are days to relax, have fun, and enjoy great food and company. Relaxing can be hard, however, if you have to handle the holidays as a co-parent. For divorced families, the holiday season can be stressful and emotionally painful. For the first time this year, many recently divorced parents will have a court-ordered parenting plan that more or less dictates how they get to spend each holiday with their children. Many other families have had to deal with this challenge for years. Transitioning from spending holidays as a family to a court mandated schedule is a difficult change to overcome, but there are ways to lessen the stress.

Review Your Parenting Plan

Many co-parents can not remember the plans they made for handling the holidays. A court-approved parenting plan that both you and your spouse agreed to during your divorce should include details on how each holiday is to be spent. There are many different ways to handle holidays as co-parents. Parents should consider their children’s ages, personalities, and relationships with each parent while deciding on a plan. A few of the most common plans include:

  • Alternating Holidays - One of the most common holiday plans co-parents agree to is alternating holidays. This means children spend each holiday with one parent one year, and then the other parent the next year. For many parents, this can be a difficult plan to accept. It means that every year one parent is going to be left without spending time with their children. If you find yourself without your children over a holiday, it is important to still make plans. Surrounding yourself with friends and other family members can help ease the pain of being without your children.

  • Splitting Holidays - Another common method of handling holidays is splitting them. This means that each parent gets a portion of each holiday to spend with their children. This plan works best for children that can easily handle transitioning from one parent to the next. If running into your ex could lead to a problem, this plan may not be for you.

  • Spending the Holiday Together - A smaller number of families decide to spend the holidays together, despite their divorce. If you and your ex can be amicable towards each other, and you value maintaining the traditions you previously established before your divorce, this plan may work for you. Keeping things friendly between you and your ex is extremely important with this plan. No parent wants to subject their children to negativity and animosity, especially during the holidays. If you can stomach, or even enjoy spending time with your ex, however, you could have success with this option.

Prepare for Change

Once you have determined your holiday schedule, based on your parenting plan, begin making preparations. Despite your feelings towards your court-approved plan, do what you can to accept things the way they are. Choose to make the best of your situation. If you are not allowed time with your children for a certain holiday this year, focus on the time you do get to spend with them. Children can pick up on negative energy, and while your feelings may be upset, do your best to keep your children out of it.

Be prepared to be flexible. Rather than hold on to animosity towards your ex, or towards your parenting plan, find ways to celebrate despite your challenges. To kids, the specific date of each holiday is not important. If you find yourself alone this coming Christmas, throw a Christmas dinner of your own with your children a few days before or after. It is pretty safe to bet that no child would be upset with getting to open presents twice.

On holidays that you do get to spend time with your children, try to start new traditions. Creating a new pastime for your family can help ease the stress of your new family changes. Many co-parents feel like traditions are thrown out when a divorce happens, so creating new yearly activities with your family is important.

The most important priority for your holiday plans is your children. Do what you can to shed any negativity you are carrying, and focus on creating the absolute best circumstances for your new family as you can. Change is difficult, but it often leads to amazing things. Embrace the new, and you will quickly find yourself enjoying every holiday.

If you are facing a divorce or need information about a working parenting plan, a qualified Naperville divorce attorney is available to assist you. To schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney, call the Pesce Law Group at 630-352-2240.

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