Holidays are a time for families. There is perhaps no more difficult time to be divorced than during the holiday season when everywhere that you look you see a reminder of what you have lost. In light of how hard it is for divorced adults to get through the holidays, it is just as hard for your children when their “new normal” or their “different kind of family” means they are sharing their holiday celebrations between homes and between parents.
Divorced parents create a year round time-sharing schedule, which would also include holidays, as part of their parenting planning process. Most parenting plans typically create a schedule where the major holidays are alternated by year. This can work very well for the majority of families and allows each parent the opportunity to celebrate in their own way. This enables you to create your own traditions on the years where your children are with you, but also on the years that they are with their other parent.
However, there are many circumstances where this traditional way of holiday time-sharing just does not work for a family. In some instances the Thanksgiving break seems too long for a child to be away from one of the parents, especially if they are very young. Or the traditional transition for the Christmas break just does not make sense because it is “lop-sided”. Or the children truly want to see each parent on the actual holiday itself or the parents do not want to “miss out” on the real holiday experience every other year. One of the advantages of the collaborative divorce process is the ability to be creative and to customize a holiday time-sharing plan around YOUR family’s goals and interests in a way that maximizes the benefit to your children. I have seen parents create some amazing holiday schedules. Some families share their time to allow their children the opportunity to be with each of them during their break or during the actual holiday. Some parents are able to celebrate the holidays together, especially during the transitional year of first holidays, so their children can focus on the holiday and not on the divorce experience. Some parents keep their regular time-sharing schedule and alternate only the actual holiday. Some parents offer the holiday break to the other parent every year because that’s what matters most. The opportunities to be creative are truly endless when you focus on what is most important to you.
But there is a caveat—when you customize a holiday time-sharing plan be careful as you may encounter unanticipated and unintended consequences. If you have to be home during this period to accommodate your time-sharing schedule, your ability to travel may be very limited OR if you have family that visits they may have less time with the children than expected. If you remarry and your new spouse has a more traditional schedule, you may create holiday planning difficulties in your new family if you have restricted your flexibility by being creative. Nevertheless, many families are indeed able to make an unconventional schedule work for them. For these reasons, it is always a good idea to seek the guidance of professionals, especially when you are trying to be creative. In this way you can be sure you are doing what is best for your family now, and in the future.