Co-parenting can be complicated under any circumstances. Add to it a few back-to-back holidays to schedule around and stress about, and even the most cooperative co-parents can end up pulling their hair out. The holidays are a time of heightened emotion under the best of circumstances and while under the influence of a custody battle can be an emotional, as well as logistical, nightmare.
Oftentimes, parents are initially so focused on implementing a regular visitation schedule, the holiday and vacation schedule gets overlooked. This can become a problem when parents cannot agree on how to share time with their children.
Most custody arrangements include some kind of holiday and vacation visitation schedule. This schedule can vary, based on the personal preferences and religious choices of the parents. Some parents may choose to share time with their child during a special holiday. For instance, one parent may have the child on Thanksgiving morning and the other parent Thanksgiving afternoon and evening. Other parents may choose to alternate years so that one parent may have their child on Thanksgiving in even years and the other parent in odd years.
Whether you have an established custody arrangement, or you have been able to avoid family law court and agree on a parenting plan, here are a few tips and tricks to help you navigate co-parenting your child during the holidays:
# 1: Plan Ahead – Communicate with Your Co-Parent
There are a lot of details to keep track of during holiday visitations. Which relatives will be visiting and when? Does either parent have plans to travel during the holidays? If there will be professional photos taken, exactly how and when will that happen? Communicating about all of the scheduling and details ahead of time can go a long way toward ensuring that everyone agrees to the schedule and can ensure their plans work around it.
What If You Don’t Have A Holiday Visitation Schedule For Your Child?
If your child custody agreement or order does not have a holiday or vacation schedule, or you do not have a custody order, the best thing to do is communicate with your co-parent and try to agree on a plan that is fair for everyone. Then, put the agreed on visitation schedule in your Parenting Plan.
If an agreement cannot be reached, you can petition the court for a visitation modification to include a holiday and vacation visitation schedule. Depending on the court’s calendar, a hearing would be set for about 4-8 weeks out, and a child custody mediation appointment will be set about 3 weeks prior to the hearing.
While the court does grant emergency child custody orders in certain circumstances, the absence of a holiday and vacation schedule is NOT considered an emergency.
# 2: Don’t Make Gift Giving a Competition
Co-parents often have different levels of income, and may enjoy different lifestyles. Some parents value gifts and material possessions more highly than others. Don’t be intimidated by your co-parent’s ability to outperform you in the material realm during holidays. Children need love and quality time with you more than any gift or toy. Feeling envious or resentful of what your co-parent gives your child only ruins your own holidays, and makes your child feel guilty or anxious.
# 3: Encourage and Support Your Child’s Relationship with Their Other Parent
It can sometimes be easy to think about time your child spends with his/her other parent as time “lost.” It is important to remember that though you are missing your child during these times, your child is enjoying their time with their other parent. Engaging in guilt trips and questioning when your child returns can be parental alienation, and it not only ruins the holidays, it can ruin your relationship with your child and your co-parent.
Remember that you must respect the other parent’s legal rights to their holiday time regardless of your desires, and your child has a right to enjoy holiday time with both parents.
# 4: Don’t Be Afraid to Break From Tradition and Establish New Traditions
You may have your own ideals and fantasies of what the holidays should be like. You may long for the sense of family you experienced as a child and want the same for your own child or wish to give your child the opposite of the severe childhood holidays you endured.
In this modern age of sharing joint custody of children, trying to recreate holiday traditions may be an exercise in futility and you may find that you are having to wing it to get through and work much harder to come up with happy experiences for your child during the holidays.
New traditions will evolve but don’t pressure yourself or your loved ones to establish them. Allow new holiday traditions to find their way into your lives. The bright side of starting over is that you’re free to exercise your creativity in celebrating holidays.
# 5: If You Need Help, Get Help
Parents struggling with depression or other mental health issues may find the holidays a particularly trying time. The same is true about parents struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. Not only is this a problem for the parents themselves, but children exposed to this may feel compelled to take care of that parent, possibly resulting in their own depression or addiction as adults. Obviously this is not a holiday tradition that you want your child to be part of.
If you find yourself having thoughts of hopelessness this holiday season, remember that there is help out there.
Finally, no matter how stressful and chaotic the holiday season gets, remember to enjoy this time with your child and allow them to enjoy their time with their other parent!
The issues discussed in this article are complex, and inherently emotional. Our custody attorneys have experience helping family law litigants obtain the best results for their children. Call the experienced family law attorneys at Talkov Law at (844) 4-TALKOV (825568)or contact us online for a free consultation about your case.