Holiday Parenting Time Tips: How to Peacefully Share Time With Your Ex
Whichever holidays you celebrate, they can be stressful even without the added complication of sharing holiday parenting time with your former spouse. But there are things you can do to prevent coordinating holiday parenting time from becoming the reason your holidays are less than jolly.
Be Proactive: Address potential conflict areas surrounding the holidays as soon as possible. In a worst-case scenario where you need to file a court application to resolve holiday disputes, courts can take several weeks or longer to consider and rule upon the relief you request. Therefore, you need to decide sooner rather than later whether you are going to be able to resolve the dispute by agreement or whether you need to begin the process of going to court. I suggest that as soon as you receive your child’s academic year calendar which includes holidays, review it with your former spouse to make sure you are both on the same page regarding the allocation of holidays between you. Consider using a shared calendar to diary the holiday parenting time so there is no confusion about it over the year.
Be Creative: Many divorce agreements alternate holidays between former spouses, with one having a certain grouping of holidays one year, and the other having that grouping the following year. As a result, there may be years when you draw the short straw and receive the holiday time that you consider less desirable. However, there are many local events leading up to the actual holiday that can become part of your tradition. Dates for Fourth of July fireworks vary from town to town, many occurring before or after the holiday. Trunk-or-treat nights and costume parades can extend Halloween beyond October 31. There are opportunities for pumpkin picking, hayrides, corn mazes, and similar events that can supplement Thanksgiving. Most holidays have events like these that can help transform your “off” year into something special. Closer to home, you can have a holiday themed movie night, bake holiday treats, or create your own version of the holiday for you to celebrate with your child.
Be Fair: As stated above, holiday allocations rotate from year to year in many agreements. You do not want to adopt unfair positions regarding the holidays you have in a given year. Doing so empowers your ex to turn the tables on you the following year when he or she has the holiday. Image the predictable argument: If the more favorable holiday treatment was appropriate for you in year X, why shouldn’t I have the same in year Y? Also, the circumstances surrounding the agreements you reached when you first divorced may change over the years. Fairness and flexibility are required to address those changes amicably. For example, when you first divorced, you may have shared Christmas morning with your children by both being there when they open presents. However, since then maybe there has been a remarriage, bringing extended family members into the mix in a manner that makes the original shared arrangement impractical. Maybe for the same reason once-shared dinner tables in other holiday celebrations have become too crowded. You want to address that change in an even-handed manner, not only to avoid litigation over the issue, but also in recognition of the original intention for you both to share the time with your children.
Be Aware: You do not want to diminish your child’s holiday with the tension invited by disputes over the parenting time surrounding that holiday. Children are acutely aware when the dynamic between parents has changed. They often seem to just know when their parents are in mediation or in court over a disagreement, even without being told. Stop that that negativity from becoming part of the holiday tradition by using these tips to celebrate rather than litigate the holidays.