Managing Your Holiday Custody Schedule

Goldberg Jones Child Custody, Everyday Dads Leave a Comment

UPDATED: Peace, joy, and celebration are the hallmarks of the holiday season. The stretch between Thanksgiving and the New Year can be filled with happiness and goodwill. But for parents with shared custody, the holidays are often filled with stress, disputes over custody schedules, and conflict.

Sure, it’s early in the year to think about all of this. The Holidays don’t actually arrive for a few more months.

But with school starting and all of the incoming fall activities, they’ll be here before you know it. (Seriously, where did the summer go?)

Having a plan and strategy in place takes at least one source of stress off the table. And let’s be real, you’ll have plenty of others to contend with before the year is over.

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Managing Your Holiday Custody Schedule

Despite the potential for conflict, tension, and other problems, there are ways to deal with the impending holiday madness. Not everything works the same for every situation. That’s a given. But parents who successfully navigate their holiday custody schedule often use the following tactics: 

Clear and Timely Communication

Following a divorce or other split, things probably aren’t great between you and  your ex. That’s just how these things usually go. This often makes communication challenging. Add the extra stress of co-parenting during the holidays and you face potential disaster.

Though it may be tough, and you may rather have your wisdom teeth out than talk to your ex, clear and timely communication is vital.

Parents who opt for this route usually fare much better than those who don’t.

This is also sound advice outside of the holiday season.

If you put aside your gripes and grievances for a time, this will go much faster and be much easier. Set a specific time to talk about holiday plans and schedules. If you can’t see each other face to face, try talking on the phone. If you can’t do that, consider instant messengers, text, or email as an alternative.

Start early. Don’t wait until the last minute. It’s much easier to arrange or rearrange plans well in advance than to scramble the week before.

This is important to everyone. It impacts you, your kids, your ex, and various other family members depending on the plans.

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Set Realistic Expectations

Movies and TV paint the holidays as magical times where miracles happen and anything is possible. Wonderful things can and sometimes do happen. But setting realistic expectations goes a long way to creating harmonious co-parenting. 

Many parents dream of perfect holiday gatherings full of warmth, grandeur, and perfection. Most of us know all too well that these lofty goals don’t usually come to fruition. Don’t stress about every detail being flawless. When was the last time that happened?

Remember as you plan your celebrations that spending time with your children is the most important part of the holidays.

Set expectations around when and how you will celebrate.

If you won’t have the kids on the actual holiday, there’s no rule saying you can’t open presents, feast, and engage in holiday merriment on another day.

Expectations with presents should also be addressed. Divorce can often strain finances and leave less money for gift giving. You want everything to be great, but don’t overextend yourself or make promises you can’t keep.

Remember, your kids will eventually forget about the toys or gifts, but they will hold onto how you made them feel.

Prior to gift opening, preferably as early as possible, explain to your kids what they can expect from the holidays in an age appropriate manner. The younger the child, the simpler the explanation should be. Let them know the plan, what arrangements you make with your ex, and the holiday schedule.

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Maintain Consistency

The holidays are hectic and chaotic for everyone. This is especially true for children with shared custody arrangements. Splitting time between parents and  shuttling between households results in twice as many parties, functions, and activities.

All too often, this also means twice as much stress and strain. It’s important to do what you can to ease that burden.

It’s normal to expect some deviation from routines during the holidays. After all, the kids are out of school, relatives are in town, maybe there’s travel to arrange. Still, the closer you can stick to the regular co-parenting schedule, the easier things will likely stay. Consistency and stability form cornerstones of security, especially for younger children.

If you do change the schedule, let the kids know as soon as possible. Give them as much advance notice as you can and don’t spring alterations on them at the last moment.

Tell them what’s going on as soon as you know.

Keeping them informed about changes—the whens and wheres and whos of the schedule—can help provide peace of mind and ease stress during the holidays.

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Put the Kids First

This was said earlier, but it bears repeating: Put the kids first.

Everything else takes a back seat to them, their feelings, and their holiday experience. You and your ex are adults. Hopefully you can both act like it for the small amount of time you have to interact. Whether they know it or not, your kids will thank you.

Parents who successfully manage holiday custody schedules put their children first when it comes to dealing with their ex.

There’s no one out there who pushes your buttons quite like your ex. Committing to always acting in your child’s best interest can be key when disagreements arise. Be as calm and even as you can, even if your ex tries to pick fights.

Maintaining a positive attitude can be difficult when dealing with your ex.

Focusing on your kids helps to alleviate some of the frustration.

Knowing your children will ultimately benefit from the arrangement makes compromising so much easier. 

Co-parenting and shared custody is almost always a challenge. The holiday season frequently intensifies issues between parents. Even minor disagreements often escalate thanks to the additional stress. Taking steps to ease tensions often helps everyone have a happier holiday season.

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