The holidays are a time that most of us look forward to enjoying. But when you are separating, divorcing, or otherwise navigating a parenting plan, it’s important to put your children’s interests first during this time. Placing kids’ needs above your own and encouraging quality time with both parents, as appropriate, is critical for those co-parenting during the holidays. Below, we look at some helpful ideas for putting this into practice, ensuring a successful and enjoyable holiday season for both you and your kids.
Preparing for Co-Parenting During the Holidays
Coordinating with your children’s other parent about your kids’ care is routine business for parents who are separately parenting their children. But when co-parenting during the holidays, such coordination and planning becomes even more critical.
Parents will want to coordinate parenting time during the holidays well in advance. Last minute changes can add stress and anxiety for both parents and kids alike. Planning ahead will allow for the flexibility needed to accommodate kids’ holiday school schedules and time off from parents’ work schedules. If you have parenting plan in place, you should consult the plan while coordinating with the other parent. Of course, proper coordination also includes communicating holidays plans with your children, so they know what to expect, too. Kids thrive on routine and predictability. Open and advance communication about plans for handling the holiday season will go a long way to making the season more enjoyable for your little ones.
And if you find yourself alone for the holidays due to the way the parenting schedule works out, reach out to friends and family to ensure you have your own plans and aren’t alone. Finding ways to enjoy the holidays in the absence of your kids is crucial and will help the time pass without resentment.
Create New Holiday Traditions
Families usually have their particular holiday traditions – perhaps listening to holiday music, putting up certain kinds of decorations, making holiday cookies together, or watching special holiday movies together. Whatever traditions you’re used to, they tend to get disrupted when one family becomes two families. This change provides an opportunity to put your own touch on the holiday traditions you share with your kids.
Begin by brainstorming some ideas you’d like to potentially incorporate into your new family holiday traditions. Then ask your kids for ideas on what you could do together as a family to celebrate the holidays. Kids will have wonderful ideas of their own, but you’ll be able to offer some of yours as well to help with the process. By choosing new traditions together, both you and your kids can feel ownership over them and likely be more excited, too. Consider choosing a new holiday movie to watch together each year, or having a marathon baking session together, or an annual get-together with friends.
Of course, if there are beloved holiday traditions you once shared as a family that can still be incorporated into your present holiday experience, by all means do it! A little continuity in traditions during the holidays can be so helpful. And there’s no harm in the kids getting to enjoy these traditions twice if both families are celebrating separately. Both kids and parents can feel the familiarity and comfort of incorporating some of the historical traditions that brought joy while also building on the experience with the introduction of new traditions.
The holidays also provide an opportunity to model the values of the season. Generosity of spirit and kindness are among the values that pervade the holidays. While co-parenting during the holidays, you have a tremendous opportunity to model such desirable behaviors when interacting with your kids’ other parent. Try to be considerate of the parent’s feelings and wishes as you navigate your holiday plans.
As your kids watch your interactions with their other parent, they’ll learn from you. And they’ll be impacted by such interactions. The holidays can be such a wonderful time for kids, and you as a parent have the gift of being able to help them enjoy the season as much as possible.
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