Many Massachusetts parents are facing their first holiday season since their break-up. If you already have a parenting plan in place that outlines how your children will divide their time between their parents, that’s helpful. However, if you haven’t yet started the divorce process, making a holiday schedule can be challenging — particularly if you and your ex aren’t on good terms.
The most important thing to remember throughout this season is to minimize stress and uncertainty for your children. They likely already have enough of both. Focus on helping them enjoy the season.
Organization is key. The sooner that you and your co-parent can get a plan in place (with the input of the kids, if they’re old enough), the more reassured they will be. Kids are flexible, but they want the security of knowing where they will be spending the holidays. Their friends will all be talking about their plans, and they’ll want to join in.
Of course, making plans is just step one. It’s essential to stick to those plans unless unforeseen circumstances arise. Children need to be reassured early on that their parents will keep their word, show up to pick them up when they’re supposed to and return them as scheduled.
It’s important to set reasonable expectations for your children. They may have a fantasy that their parents will be together for Christmas and maybe even reunite. If they’re going to be splitting time between homes, emphasize the positives (two Christmas trees, for example).
Don’t make your kids feel bad that they’ll be away from you for part of the holidays. Let them enjoy their time with their other parent without worrying about you. Make plans with friends or just for things to do by yourself to help you get through the periods you don’t have your kids. This will also ease the temptation to call or text them.
If you’re struggling with your ex over holiday plans, your family law attorney may be able to offer some advice or refer you to resources that help newly-single parents. The lessons you learn from these first holidays after a split can help you as you negotiate your parenting plan.
Source: LaCrosse Tribune, “Ex-etiquette: First holiday after a breakup,” Allan M Swift, Nov. 26, 2016