By Attorney Barbra Homier
I know it probably seems like common sense, but parents making poor decisions regarding child visitation during the holidays is far too familiar. Thanksgiving and Christmas are stressful for most families. However, that stress is unmatched by the discomfort experienced by children caught between divorcing parents during these family-centered holidays. Here are my tips try to make things a little less unpleasant for your kids.
Be Flexible. The traditions of your extended family and what you did every other year will have to be changed. No matter what a Judgment or Parenting Time Order says, BE FLEXIBLE, and adjust the schedule so that you kids can spend time with each set of extended family. They love your kids, and your kids love them.
Work out the schedule early. It’s never too early to get the holiday exchanges worked out. Everyone should have a good idea about the festivities or special events they are planning by early November. Please pick up your phone and talk about it. Stop with the texts. Stop with the emails. Talk to each other and decide on a schedule that’s going to work best for your kids – NOT YOU. Please do not put your kids in the middle and ask them to communicate for you. Have this conversation with your Ex early and provide a stable holiday schedule for your children.
Talk to your Ex about gifts. As a parent myself, I have noticed that as my children get older, the number of gifts they require at Christmas goes down; however, the cost of each gift has increased exponentially. I know I’m not alone. Talk to your Ex about sharing the cost of a joint gift, particularly one that will be shared between the homes, such as an iPad or a laptop. Even if you aren’t sharing a gift, it never hurts to discuss what your children want and to try and spread those gifts between your homes. If this is your first Christmas apart as a family, please refrain from overloading your child with the same number of gifts she would have received had your family remained together. More gifts are not going to make your kids’ adjustment any less stressful, nor will it make your kids love you more.
Hold on to old traditions, but start some new ones. Divorce does not have to mean that the family traditions you previously shared have to end. It’s important to hold on to those traditions. At the same time, don’t be afraid to adopt new traditions, particularly those centered on time with you and shared experiences. Your children will remember the new tradition of Christmas Eve Monopoly or Euchre, more than the latest Xbox Game to hit the market. Give your child the gift of TIME. Time is precious, and so are your kids.
Avoid Court at all costs during the holidays. Many couples turn to Court when it comes to disputes about the holidays and parenting time. Always adjust your schedule when you are asked in advance and politely. You will need the same favor someday yourself to accommodate the inevitable curveballs life throws at us. The last place you and your ex should be is in Court, arguing over who gets to spend more time with your kids over the holidays. Give your children the gift of two extended families that have their best interest at heart.