The holidays are a time for celebration and spending time together with the ones you love. Every holiday song repeats the message of love, sharing, and family. For a recently-divorced or separated person in North Carolina, however, the holiday time can be especially stressful and difficult. Co-parenting during the holidays can be particularly challenging. So what can you do to try to ensure the holidays go smoothly?
Most parents come up with a holiday schedule that is different from the regular visitation schedule. Whatever the situation, you will want to outline a clear holiday visitation schedule before the holiday season begins. In order to arrange a holiday schedule that will work best for your family, you need to think about which holidays and which times during the holidays are most important to you. A typical holiday schedule tends to involve a rotation so that one parent has half of the holidays with the children on even years and the other holidays on odd years. This schedule works when families live farther away from each other and splitting the day would involve too much travel time or interruption. Another way parents divide holidays is to exchange the children halfway through the day so that the children spend some time with each family. One parent can celebrate Christmas Eve and the other parent can celebrate Christmas dinner; or the children might spend Christmas morning and afternoon with one family and then Christmas late afternoon and evening with the other. This works especially well if the families will arrange their holiday meals so that one serves a Holiday lunch and the other serves a Holiday dinner. The children benefit with special holiday time with each parent and, of course, lots of delicious food! This kind of holiday custody division works well with Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas and Hanukkah if the parents reside close enough to limit the amount of travel for the children.
If possible, try to talk to the other parent about the holiday schedule and how to best handle the exchanges so that your children spend significant time with both families without too much travel or interruption. Both parents may need to be more flexible in scheduling dinner or present-exchange/party times to make accommodations for travel, exchange times, and/or naps. It is possible that the other parent will think it is a good idea to spend Thanksgiving with the children in exchange for Christmas, or possibly Christmas Eve in exchange for Christmas Day. You may come up with your schedule together, through your attorneys, or by order of the court. No matter what you and the other parent decide, try to make the transition as smooth as possible for your children. You should talk to your children and prepare them for what to expect during the holidays so that they are not surprised (and not in the middle of a fun activity) when it is time for exchanges to occur.
The transition of going from one household to two can be easier on your children if you start some new holiday traditions special just for your children. Younger children are excited for the celebration, no matter what date it actually occurs. If you do not have your children for Christmas or Hanukkah in odd-numbered years, you might have a holiday celebration the weekend before or after the actual holiday. If your children are old enough, you might want to wait until your children are with you to decorate for the holidays. You can assign each child a task to help with, such as cooking or hanging lights. You might also consider going out of town to somewhere fun with your children to celebrate the holidays if you have an extended visit with them during winter break. No matter how you decide to celebrate, encourage your children to contribute their ideas and pay attention to how they are dealing with the changes.
An experienced family law attorney can help ease the burden of deciding what sort of holiday schedule will work best for your family. Your first holidays without your children will inevitably be difficult. Remember to relax and try to enjoy yourself as much as possible. Surround yourself with family and friends who can support you and express how much you are loved and needed.
If you need assistance with custody or a custody consent order, call Montgomery Family Law at (919) 816-9002.
Happy holidays from our family to yours!