How to Create a Holiday Parenting Schedule After Separation or Divorce
How do you plan for the holidays when you’re separated or divorced? You’ll likely already have a “regular” parenting schedule for the majority of the year (check out our blog on this topic), but there should be special attention paid to creating a schedule especially for the holidays.
How do Parents Work Out Sharing of Children for Holidays?
Define what holidays are important – the major holidays most families want to consider in their parenting schedule are:
- Mother’s Day
- Father’s Day
- Long weekends
- Week-long school breaks
- And even holidays like Halloween
Next, parents should consider how detailed they want to be in outlining the holidays
Some parents pick the holidays that are really important to them. Others pick the ones that they anticipate will lead to conflict. While others decide to define every holiday possible to avoid any potential for conflict. There are also parents who decide that they just want to “agree to agree” on their holiday schedule as holidays come up.
How much or little detail parents should put into their written holiday parenting schedule?
Generally speaking, the more conflict between the parents, the more detail that should be negotiated in advance.
If you believe that you and your co-parent can generally agree on how a holiday schedule will go, then you may be able to simply say “let’s discuss our thoughts on the upcoming holiday 45 days ahead so that we can come up with what will work for both households.”
If you believe that you and your co-parent will have conflict over any particular holiday, it’s best to negotiate that in advance using a dispute resolution process like mediation or a resolution-focused lawyer.
I always say to families I work with that although December is usually a very busy month for divorce lawyers, for me it’s usually a slower month because I always make sure that the families I work with are planned for the holidays well in advance.
If parents want to leave the holiday parenting schedule less specific, what are some considerations to avoid conflict?
For every family I work with, I always suggest co-parenting meetings 3 times a year. At these meetings, the parents will discuss the children’s health care, developmental and educational needs, and other parenting issues as desired. Additionally, the following season-specific topics will be covered:
- January meeting: review the school schedule through the end of the school year, review school breaks and holidays and special occasions, and begin summer planning;
- March meeting: discuss the summer schedule, camps, activities, child care, summer vacations, and holidays;
- August meeting: review the upcoming school schedule from start of school through end of January to include winter break and holiday considerations.
Generally speaking, as long as parents look at the calendar well in advance of any holidays or special occasions to give them time to negotiate, they’ll do better than parents who do last-minute planning.
If parents feel that they need more detail in their holiday parenting schedule, what are some examples of how they could arrange it?
There are so many ways to arrange holidays, but here’s a few ideas for our viewers to start to put their thoughts together.
First would be to define the holiday period itself – that will set the outside limit of the days that will be the “exception” to the regular school-based schedule.
For instance, for Christmas do you want to change that regular schedule for the entire 2-week school holiday, or just for a few days on either side of December 25th? Does Mother’s Day and Father’s Day lead to an exception for the entire weekend or just for the Sunday holiday day itself?
Once you’ve defined the holiday period, then next you want to decide how that will be shared. Some families agree that one parent has the Christmas period and the other parent has the Easter period, however that is defined. Other families will alternate Christmas in even and odd numbered years.
Things like long weekends – do you share them such that one parent has one long weekend and the other parent gets the next? Do parents even have that holiday day off work such that they can accommodate having the kids that extra day?
There are so many considerations for every family that it really does take time to talk thru the planning of the holidays together, or with the help of a divorce professional.