Creating A Holiday Parenting Plan: How To Ensure A Smooth Season For Your Children

The holiday season is meant to be a time of joy that you share with loved ones, but for divorced or separated parents, it can sometimes turn into a time filled with stress and conflict. When you and your partner decided to go your separate ways, you were faced with many tough decisions regarding how to divide your debts, assets, property, and time with your children. It can be easy to forget about the ongoing planning that co-parenting requires post-divorce, especially during the holidays. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss how creating a holiday parenting plan can help ensure a smooth season for your children. A well-structured plan can create a strong foundation for your family to be able to cherish the moments and memories made.

Building Blocks of a Holiday Parenting Plan

When you envisioned spending the holidays with your children, you probably didn’t imagine them looking like this. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a special and memorable season in their life. One of the key components to creating a holiday parenting plan is establishing the building blocks.

Defining The Holiday Schedule

This is perhaps the most difficult part of creating a plan, as both parents would likely prefer to spend every holiday with the children. There are several options when it comes to making a schedule; -there is no “one-size-fits-all” formula. Every family is different, so what works for some won’t work for all. Whether you and your co-parent choose to split the actual day of a holiday, or alternate who gets the children for a full day this year, while the other gets them the next year, establishing this ahead of time can give each parent time to adjust to the schedule, stop conflict from arising, and eliminate the possibility of any surprises. There are even online templates that can help you get your dates in order in preparation for the upcoming season.

Communicate & Cooperate

Once your holiday schedule is set, it’s important that you remain open to communication with your co-parent as personal schedules can change, illnesses can occur, flights can be delayed or canceled, and some plans might need to be shifted at your co-parent’s request. While you’re entitled to use your discretion about whether you’re willing to be flexible, try to consider what your child might want in this situation, and what you would want if the roles were reversed. 

Child-Centric Decision Making

That leads to the third component of a holiday parenting plan: child-centric decision making. When you created a custody arrangement–whether you and your former spouse worked things out in mediation, or a judge made the final call–the arrangement that was made was in the best interest of your child at the time it was made. It’s important to hold onto that mindset during the holiday season, as it’s supposed to be a time where your child makes some of their best memories. If you keep their well-being at the forefront of your plans, it can alleviate the possibility of chaos as the holidays approach. 

If your child is old enough to express an opinion or preference, you and your co-parent might also want to take that into consideration. 

Legal Considerations

It’s imperative that if your holiday plan deviates from any written custody agreements or orders in place that you memorialize the agreement to deviate from the legal documents in writing (just in case your ex’s memory becomes “foggy” later). If your  documents don’t  outline specifications for a holiday schedule, you need to make sure you have an agreement with your co-parent well in advance.. 

You should also familiarize yourself with the process of modification. Modification is a change in an existing court order, and usually occurs when one parent or the child has a significant change in circumstances, like the need for relocation, a job loss, a significant medical condition, the child’s needs not being met, or something else of major importance to the well-being of the child.

Tips for a Smooth Holiday Season

In addition to the building blocks and legal considerations of a holiday parenting plan, below are a few tips that can help ensure a harmonious holiday season for you, your child, and their other parent:

  1. Start planning now – We recommend starting to plan in the summer or early fall so you have plenty of time to think about the oncoming months and devise a schedule for how you and your co-parent will share your child’s time.
  2. Be flexible – Not everything always goes as planned, and sometimes schedules will need to be adjusted. Try to be flexible and allow for rearrangement as long as it abides by the custody agreement in place. 
  3. Consider your child’s age – If your child is younger, they need you and their co-parent to be the one providing stability through a schedule. However, if your child is of age to have preference for how they spend their time, giving them an opportunity to express that can eliminate some resentment, strengthening your relationship.
  4. Be consistent – If possible, when you create a schedule, try to keep it as consistent as possible as it can provide a sense of security for your child/children.
  5. Be respectful and empathetic – Try to keep in mind that this is your child’s other parent that you’re planning with. They love your child, too, and your child can probably sense when there’s tension between the two of you. Simply treat them how you wish to be treated. That means keeping them in the loop and sharing information when it is your time with your child. 
  6. Respect holiday traditions – Make sure that you honor and respect any traditions that your child’s other parents may share with them. 
  7. Stay positive – Keep a positive attitude and avoid speaking poorly about your child’s other parent in front of them. 
  8. Celebrate together if you can – In some cases, like your child’s birthday or other special occasions, it may be possible for you to all celebrate together. This can strengthen your co-parenting relationship and show your child that you and their other parent will always show up for them. 

How Triangle Smart Divorce Can Help You

If you and your former partner need to modify your custody arrangements to fit your current circumstances before the holidays, we can help. Our experienced modification attorneys can help you make changes when a job loss, illness, or disability occurs, or if you have to relocate, or other extenuating circumstances come up. Call today to request a consultation and learn what your legal options are.