WFJ Presents: Dealing with Holiday Parenting Time After Divorce: 3 Simple Steps to Reduce Stress

The holidays are here again! For some families, this time of year can be more stressful than jolly, however. If you have been through a divorce, this classic WFJ article may be helpful to you in the next few months.

Many people address holiday parenting time directly in their divorce decree. This can be a good place to start in order to determine who the kids will spend time with around the holidays. Unfortunately, not every divorce decree has a specific holiday parenting time schedule.

Many decrees have schedules that are not clear or have become outdated as children have gotten older and families have changed. There are a few simple things you can do to try and plan for the upcoming holiday season to make it more enjoyable for everyone.

1. Remain flexible and child-focused. Although it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of the holidays and dealing with your ex, it’s important to remember that the goal of both parents should be to do what is best for the children. Trying to keep your focus on the children can ensure that you are putting your attention where it needs to be. Part of that is being flexible. For the most part, children don’t care if they celebrate the holiday on any particular date, what they care about is having meaningful time with both parents. If that means you celebrate a holiday early or late, so be it. This may make more sense and be better for the children then trying to see both parents and their extended families in a single day just for the sake of celebrating the holiday on a particular date.

2. Make plans early. If there is ambiguity in your divorce decree about pick up and drop off times for a holiday or if you want to suggest a change to the holiday schedule, plan ahead. Ideally, you would start discussing changes to the holiday schedule several weeks in advance. This gives both parties time to consider the options, discuss plans with extended family, and make child focused decisions. Waiting until the last minute can cause added stress and conflict as people rush to change plans and try to make decisions.

3. Maintain traditions. Even though you and your ex are now living apart, it doesn’t mean that everything has to change. Both parents and children will take comfort in maintaining traditions. This is often more important to children then when or where they celebrate a particular holiday. You may look to establish a new special tradition as well that can keep your focus on positive holiday experiences and spending that meaningful time with family.