We’re fully into the holiday season at this point in the year. However, for divorced couples who may be co-parenting or on a custody schedule, this time of year can look much different.
If this is your first time celebrating the holidays after your divorce, you may be wondering how to handle this. Here are five ways that you and your ex-spouse can manage your holiday time.
Before jumping in, remember that this time of year is important for your children and that this is not the time to be badmouthing your ex-spouse. Let your kids enjoy the season without having to worry about how you’ll react to your ex.
Also, this is a happy time for you, so be sure to take the moments as they come without pressuring yourself to be perfect. Your kids will be excited about the season, regardless of the arrangement that you and your ex-spouse choose. The holiday season is a time for giving thanks and making wonderful memories with your family.
Plan In Advance
One of the first things you’ll want to do after your divorce is discussed what the holidays will look like. This may seem like an odd thing to bring up in the summer months, but you’ll be grateful that you discussed it ahead of time.
After you get divorced and you’re able to approach the situation with an open mind, you should get with your ex-partner to plan the holiday season and any school breaks. Because this situation can be difficult, you should be ready to compromise. The holidays are important for everyone. Talk with your ex-spouse about both of your expectations, and what would work best for the both of you.
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This is an option that may be useful to your situation. In an alternating holiday schedule, you may spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with your children on even years, and your ex-spouse will spend those days with them on odd years. Alternating years doesn’t mean that you won’t get the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with your children at all, but it does mean that you will have to be creative with how you celebrate.
This could look like giving gifts to your ex-spouse for them to open Christmas morning, or it could mean that you celebrate with your children earlier in the week.
The benefits of an alternate schedule mean that when it is your year, you will have your children the entire holiday. In your off years, you could spend that time with your mother and father, or travel to celebrate with your friends or extended family.
Drawbacks could include feeling like you’re missing out on seeing your children or having to be a bit more ahead of the schedule. This is one of the most clear-cut ways to split holiday time between parents.
A fixed holiday system may work well if both parents celebrate different religions, or there are holidays that mean more to one parent than the other. For example, if one parent is Jewish and one is Christian, the children would always spend Hanukkah with the Jewish parent and Christmas with the Christian parent.
Or, this could look like one parent spending Christmas Day with their children every year, and the other celebrating Christmas Eve. This schedule could even extend to school breaks, with one parent getting spring break while the other takes the children for fall break.
It’s important to remember that when you make the decision to set up a fixed holiday schedule, you may have to be flexible. While the schedule may look like one holiday getting permanently assigned to one parent, there are always extenuating circumstances that could cause the arrangement to change. For instance, if there are health issues involving either of your parents, you may have to adjust your expectation of the holidays for the time being. This involves open and honest communication with your ex-spouse.
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Splitting the holidays may look different, depending on how you and your extended family celebrate the holidays. A good example of a split holiday arrangement could look like you celebrating Christmas Eve with your children and extended family, while your ex-spouse spends Christmas Day with the kids.
Another way you could split the holidays involves your partner spending Christmas morning with the children, while you celebrate the rest of the day. You could even combine this schedule with an alternating arrangement so that each parent gets to celebrate a different part of the holiday every year.
This arrangement is very flexible and customizable to your family’s needs. The benefits of a split holiday arrangement can include celebrating your favorite part of the holiday with your children or getting to spend time with them during the holiday season, regardless of the year.
The drawbacks may include having to spend time with your ex-partner to trade-off for the different parts of the holiday. This arrangement requires a lot of communication, and will likely involve you and your ex sitting down and prioritizing which part of the holiday is most important to you.
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If both of you want to celebrate all parts of the holiday with the kids, you may go for a double holiday arrangement. This would look like you spending December 24th and December 25th with the children, while your partner spends December 19th and December 20th with them.
You could also mix this with an alternating schedule, where your partner spends the 24th and 25th with the kids one year, while you celebrate those days the following year.
The benefit of this arrangement is that your children get double the Christmas spirit! In addition, you’ll get to celebrate the entire Christmas holiday with them every year, regardless of the day that you spend with them. However, if your children are young and believe in Santa Claus, you may have to come up with some creative ways to explain why Santa came to see your children two times a year.
If you want to keep the magic alive, you could incorporate some different traditions or Christmas figures. Although, if you’re not ready to have the talk about Santa yet, it might be a good idea to look at some other options before trying the double holiday arrangement. Additionally, a double holiday system may affect spending time with extended family.
If you and your partner divorced on good terms, you may consider spending the holiday with your kids and your ex-spouse. This arrangement is best for families that are comfortable with the idea of coming together under one roof.
Combining the holidays could look like your partner staying in the guest room, or vice versa, and waking up to celebrate with your children together. You could also combine the celebrations of an extended family with the entire family. Your children will likely enjoy getting to spend time with both parents at the same time.
Combining holidays can be very difficult for those who did not end their divorce on speaking terms. Choosing to combine holidays when there is still tension between parents can cause undue stress on the children, which will take away the joy of the holiday.
Be sure to only choose this option if you are certain that you and your partner are on amicable terms and can handle the mental load of being together on the holidays. This arrangement may also be difficult if either parent begins dating, or gets remarried. Again, there are benefits to spending the holiday together, but it is a choice that should be made carefully.
There are many different ways to celebrate the holidays, and each has its own merits. Be sure to be open and honest with your ex-spouse, and try to be patient. This is completely new for both of you, so there will be times that are frustrating. When you get angry or upset, just remember that this is a time for celebrating the joy of family. Be forgiving of yourself and those around you.
Getting a divorce is difficult, and it can be made even more difficult around the holidays. No matter how you and your family choose to celebrate, remember that the process will get easier. Your children will be excited to spend time with you, regardless of the arrangements. Don’t fall victim to perfectionism – you are enough.
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