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How to handle the holiday season during your divorce with kids

Holidays are a stressful time of year for adults, even if they are something that children look forward to with enthusiasm. Parents are the ones responsible for producing holiday magic, budgeting enough to accommodate traveling and gift-giving, preparing those big meals and handling every crisis that inevitably manifests along the way.

When you add a pending or recent divorce to that mix, the holidays can seem like a tradition not even worth the effort. However, children prioritize the holiday season and the happiness it often brings. Putting extra effort into the holidays this year can set your family up with a positive new tradition as you move forward into a new lifestyle and shared custody arrangements.

Trying to focus on what the kids want will make the holidays better

Some parents use the holidays as an excuse to get into power struggles with each other. They might fight over every minute of time with the kids or try to sabotage each other by outdoing or undermining gifts for the kids. That kind of approach may give the parents a way to vent their frustrations, but it makes the holidays miserable for everyone.

Instead of seeing the holidays as an opportunity to punish your ex or point out what they’re missing, remember that this is a chance to remind the children that they are still in the middle of a loving family unit.

Coordination, not competition, is the co-parenting goal

Conversations with your ex-spouse may not be something you look forward to, but open and frequent communication about the holidays will improve the experience for everyone. As soon as you know what gifts you want to get children and other extended family members, communicate that information with your ex, ideally in writing so they have it as a point of reference in the future.

You could even cooperate, especially if your children want expensive gifts like new computers and new video game systems. Sharing the cost of expensive presents can be a way to meet your children’s expectations without both of you going broke.

Splitting, rotating or sharing the holidays can all be an option

There are many ways for your family to handle the holidays and the custody disagreements that can arise around it. Some people split the holidays, meaning the kids spend half of the day with one parent and half with the other. Other families rotate holidays, meaning you alternate who gets which holiday from year to year.

Finally, if you are on good terms, you may choose to share the holidays and spend the time together as one family unit, an approach that is often favored by children from divorced families.

Getting good help with custody matters early in your divorce will put you in a position to negotiate calmly and reasonably about your parenting plan, including your holiday hopes for the family.