Managing Holidays with Your Co-Parent

Christmas celebration

Holidays can be stressful for families – especially when you need to coordinate them with a co-parent after a divorce or separation. There are many times for you, your partner, or your children to become overwhelmed with the division of time. Here are 4 core ideas to keep in mind in order to handle the holidays as smoothly as possible.

1. Put your children first 

It can be easy to get caught up in just trying to “win” the fight between you and your ex-partner. However, no matter how hard it gets, never put your children in a position where they feel like they have to choose between you two. It will put unfair pressure on them. The key is to focus on your family and prioritize making sure that your children feel loved and supported despite the separation. One thing that can help keep that cohesion within the family is to not discard all of your family’s old holidays traditions. It can be tempting to scrap all the things your family used to do together, but try to keep some of the best ones while also creating new memories.

2. Plan ahead of time 

In order to ensure that the holidays occur as pain free as possible, planning ahead of time is absolutely essential. Depending on the family and your relationship with your ex-partner, this can be done a couple different ways. Start by sitting down and make a list of the different holidays, school breaks, and special events like birthdays. Then make a plan for which holidays the kids are spending with which parent. Below are a few different ways to divide things up:

  • Alternate holidays
  • Spend a combination of time with both your families merged together, and some apart.
  • Divide the holiday equally
  • Celebrate the day twice, one with each parent
  • Assign each parent a certain holiday (Mom gets Thanksgiving, Dad gets Christmas)

One of the most important things to remember is the first point. Put your children first. In this case, make sure you aren’t sacrificing your children’s time in an attempt to divide time perfectly. If they are spending most of their time just traveling between both your parents, no one will be happy. WeParent can definitely help with scheduling in the different times so you are both on the same page as to where your child is when.

3. Communication is key

To optimize your planning, start communicating early.

If possible, get together in person and try and get it done in one sitting. The more details you can hash out ahead of time, the more likely the holidays go smoothly and there is no confusion or stress. In these talks, the details may seem excessive in the moment, but don’t leave anything unclear. Have a clear and established timeline of when and where exchanges happen, and when your children are where. Use resources such as the WeParent app to help formalize your plan and use it as a shared resource. With clear communication come understanding and respect.

Acknowledge and follow the rules and schedule that the two of you create together. If both parties adhere to the agreed upon plan, without trying to deviate at the last moment, it will go far more smoothly.

For more ideas, take a look at our “Communication through Conflict” blog post.

4. Don’t forget to take care of yourself

Holidays can be a joyful, but also stressful time.

Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with anxiety or sadness over your children not being able to be with you for the entirety of holidays. Make plans with other friends and family so that you don’t feel like you have to handle everything by yourself. Have a support system in place that you can go to. And don’t be afraid to take some time for yourself and just relax.

Finally, be prepared to be flexible and compromise. Ideally, your plan will work, but still don’t get caught up in an idealized version of how you imagine the holiday to be. Just appreciate the time that you do have with your children and try and enjoy yourself.

Hopefully, you can keep these four core ideas in your mind as you plan for the holidays. It won’t be easy, but it is definitely possible. We wish you the best of luck and hope you make some amazing new memories with your kids.

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