Divorce and the Holidays: How to Handle Who Gets the Kids

With the holiday season approaching as you go through divorce, it’s common to feel stressed, uncertain, and awkward about how to handle new situations like the first holiday in a single parent household.

Ideally, you and your spouse have discussed a plan for where the children will spend the holidays.  Perhaps you’ve already successfully negotiated a custody and parenting time arrangement even if it has not yet become finalized in your Marital Settlement Agreement.  Or maybe you and your spouse have simply had an informal conversation although have not reached agreement.

If there has been no discussion or agreement on parenting time over the holidays, a general guide is to stick as close to tradition as possible.  For example, if you typically hosted Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, you might consider continuing this tradition, and keeping a home-base for your children.  One option might be having your children spend the main holiday meal in their home and share dessert or brunch with the other parent.  Or if your spouse’s family traditionally hosts Christmas Eve dinner and yours typically hosts Christmas Day, you can arrange for your children to continue to share the holidays as they had previously.

Whatever you decide, it’s best that you (preferably with your spouse) make the decision for your children, while at the same time, taking their input into consideration.  Remember that children need to feel heard (doesn’t everyone?) but they also need structure and stability, especially in the midst of this family transition.

Another tip for easing family changes for your children during the holidays is to start new holiday traditions with them.  For example, you could make meals to donate to a local soup kitchen or senior center.  Or you might  enlist your children in baking  cookies and other sweets and wrapping them up to deliver to neighbors.  The key is to use your imagination to create festive new traditions that can be shared with your children for years to come.

 

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