How to Make Holidays Work When You’re Co-Parenting


Coparenting is never easy for most families, but that might become especially obvious around holidays. Your custody agreement should outline what happens specifically during holidays, but in general, the following are some tips to make it less stressful for everyone.

Have a Plan

One of the most important things you can do to manage the holidays and alleviate stress for yourself and your children is to have a plan. As was mentioned, your custody agreement should have a holiday schedule.

If your holiday schedule doesn’t work well for your current needs, which is what parents often find several years down the road, then you should consider talking to your co-parent to see if you can communicate something that will work well for both of you.

If you can’t agree on something, you may have to get in touch with your attorney.

You do have to keep in mind that compromise is an important part of co-parenting.

Eliminating the possibility for unexpected arguments that arise from not having a clear plan is also important.

If a holiday is coming up and you’re just starting to work out a parenting plan, don’t make your kids decide between either of you. Try to avoid putting them in an uncomfortable position.

If you have an idea for how you’d like to spend a holiday, talk about it as far in advance as you can, especially if it will affect the other parents’ schedule.

If you have a custody agreement but you aren’t sure what it outlines as far as holidays, talk to your lawyer. What can often happen is that parents will think they understand the stipulations of their agreement, but they don’t, which can end up in arguments that are entirely unnecessary.

Start New Traditions

When you’re no longer living under the same roof as the person you co-parent with, you may try to cling to old traditions. Instead of doing that, try to start new traditions. Focus on moving forward and not what you no longer have.

Just put the focus of all of your holidays on being together.

With that in mind, it’s okay to acknowledge that things are different. Sometimes both parents and children can feel a sense of stress and disappointment if everyone is trying to pretend like things are the same. Change is hard, and it’s good to talk about that and share how you’re feeling. Encourage your kids to do the same.

Find Support For Yourself

If you’re going to have to spend some or all of a holiday without your children, especially if it’s the first year for that, you have to prioritize your own needs and well-being just like you do for your children.

Maybe you find friends or family you can be with during the holiday, rather than feeling like you’re alone. You might even treat yourself to something, like a few days away, if your kids will be with the other parent.  

Ask Instead of Demanding

One of the biggest issues co-parents face when they’re dealing with one another is that one or both may tend to make demands rather than asking for something they want. If you want something that deviates from your parenting plan or custody agreement, don’t make it a demand. Have a conversation and ask if your co-parent would be okay with it.

If not, maybe you can come up with another solution that works for both of you.

Drop the sense of entitlement if it’s something you struggle with because that won’t get you anywhere.

Even subtle changes in the language you use and how you phrase things can be extremely helpful when dealing with your child’s other parent.

Don’t Try to Buy Love

Around the holidays, there is often the tendency among parents when they’re no longer together to try and each buy the love and affection of their kids.

This is never a good idea for anyone.

Instead, if at all possible, be reasonable with gifts and try to coordinate with your former partner.

Finally, if you’re going to be spending time with your extended family during any holiday and your children will be with you, you may talk to them about disparaging your child’s other parent. Don’t use the holidays as a time to bash, no matter the situation. That creates stress and can ruin the festivities.

Just do the best you can and think about how to enjoy your holiday no matter how it might look.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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