Labor Day is the beginning of a hectic holiday season, which brings challenges for co-parents. Just like preparing for the new school year, a little advanced planning can reduce the stress of managing holiday schedules.
Establish lines of communication that work for both you and your co-parent. This may mean talking in person, having a phone chat, jumping on a Zoom call, texting, or exchanging emails — whatever minimizes conflict and encourages productive discussion. How would you like to be notified if your co-parent has an issue? Do you want a text if they’re running late, missed a flight, or need to take one of the kids to the doctor, or would you prefer a phone call?
Parenting plans often specify how major holidays are divided, but they may not cover all the dates that are important to you. Review your calendars before the school year starts and make specific plans for the holidays and other non-school days that matter to your family. Establish logistics, too — where and when you will exchange the kids may be different when they aren’t in school.
Express Your Preferences.
Both parents should express what is important to them during the holiday season. It can be helpful to rank these preferences or assign them “importance points” (i.e., on a scale of 1 to 5, how much do you want to have the kids Christmas morning rather than evening?). Try to compile these into one list rather than discussing them piecemeal so you can both see a full overview.
Be Willing to Negotiate.
Know where you are willing to compromise and what your goals are. Be open to creative solutions. Maybe both of you want to have a big Thanksgiving celebration with your kids. Would it be possible for one parent to host theirs over the weekend? (Turkey tastes just as good on Saturday as Thursday!)
Make New Traditions.
Religious holidays are usually centered around fixed dates and worship rituals, but celebrations are much more flexible. As parents, you can create new family traditions. Maybe one household can embrace opening presents on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day (December 26) on alternate years rather than having to shuttle back and forth on Christmas Day. Most kids won’t turn down TWO days of presents!
Encourage your kids to video chat with their other parent on special days they aren’t together (such as birthdays or faraway celebrations with extended family). This can make them feel closer and reduce everyone’s unhappiness.
It can be valuable to communicate with your co-parent about gifts for the kids or even collaborate on purchasing them. It’s also nice to help your kids shop for a gift for their other parent.
Cut Yourself – and Each Other – Some Slack.
Holidays can be stressful, even without extra co-parenting issues. Build time into your plans to take care of yourself so you can help your kids stay happy and healthy. Try to exercise patience and forgiveness and remember that everyone – including your co-parent – is doing their best.