The holidays are an important time for both parents and children. When it comes to parents who are or will be subject to parenting orders, some decisions need to be made on how to share this time fairly.
Legally, the schedule for holidays, vacations and school breaks overrides your regularly scheduled parenting time. So, it’s important to include a list of holidays you wish to celebrate in your parenting plan and make arrangements to share them.
Try to focus on your child’s point of view. Remember that they need holiday time with both parents and with extended family. Ideally, that time would be free of distractions and focused on the fun and traditions of the holiday — not on driving from one parent’s house to the other. They need you and your ex to support their participation in these family rituals and to work together.
Splitting or alternating years
Different arrangements make sense for different holidays. For example, it might make sense for the children’s mother always to get Mother’s Day with them and the father to always get Father’s Day. Even that, however, can differ depending on your family’s needs.
You may choose to alternate years for some holidays. For example, Dad might get the kids for Halloween in even years and Mom in odd years.
Other holidays can be split, if you prefer. For example, one parent might get New Year’s Eve, while the other gets New Year’s Day. Sometimes, however, splitting holidays means extensive travel for the children on the special day itself.
You might agree to share some holidays, such as the child’s birthday. Or, that might not be an option for you.
The important thing is to decide what you think is fair and make solid arrangements in your parenting plan. Not all holidays have to be handled the same way.
Keep in mind that some holidays come with long weekends or time off from school. You may choose to split this time, or trade some of it for an uninterrupted holiday with the kids. For example, you might choose to have both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at the same household. In exchange, the other parent could get to spend more of the vacation with the kids. You could alternate years with the holiday.
You can also trade holidays, again alternating years. For example, if one parent gets the kids for the Fourth of July, the other parent would get them for Labor Day weekend.
Keep your children’s developmental needs in mind
Even though your kids love both of you, there may be one parent who generally spends more time with them. That parent’s house may feel more like “home” than the other parent’s dwelling. It may not seem fair, but it happens all the time.
When the kids associate one parent’s house with being “home,” they may become anxious when at the other parent’s house for an extended period of time. Consider scheduling a video call with the “home” parent during the holiday or vacation. On the other hand, a video call could increase the children’s sense of longing. Be sensitive to your children’s individual needs and try to find a balance.
As always in co-parenting, communication is key. Every vacation, holiday or school vacation should be carefully planned, and you should share the critical details with your ex.