Keeping the peace during the holiday season
The holidays are a supposed to be time for mistletoe and merry, caroling and hot chocolate, but when separation or divorce are imminent, you may not be in the mood for a round of “Joy to the World” gathered around the family piano. To be sure, separation and divorce is tough, and navigating this difficult time with children can be challenging and emotionally charged. Some of you may be contemplating a separation from your spouse, others may be trying to negotiate a custody schedule with the other parent, while others may be in the throes of a heated custody battle. No matter where you are in this process, if you have children, here a few things you should keep in mind to keep the peace as the holidays approach:
1. Plan ahead. If you do not already have a custody order or parenting agreement in place that outlines your holiday time with the children, you do not want to wait until the last minute to talk with your lawyer, and if possible, the other parent to establish a holiday schedule with the children. If travel arrangements need to be made over the holidays, consider how that may impact the children’s time with you and the other parent. Some parents choose to alternate years with the children over Thanksgiving to allow for travel, i.e. mom will have the children over the children’s Thanksgiving break from school in odd-numbered years, and dad will have the children in even-numbered years.
Likewise, you and the other parent may choose to divide the children’s winter break from school. Under that arrangement, the parent who did not have the children for Thanksgiving would have the children for the first half of the children’s winter break from school, and the other parent would have the children for the second half of the children’s winter break from school. The parents may decide to exchange the children in the afternoon on December 25th so that both parents can enjoy the children on Christmas Day, if celebrated. It just all depends on what works for your family.
2. Consider the ages of your children. When arranging your holiday plans with the other parent, consider the ages of the children and the times that you will be exchanging the children, especially in light of travel plans and the children’s schedules. Try to work with the other parent so that both of you can minimize the disruptions to your children’s schedules for naps, eating, play time, etc. No matter what differences you may have with the other parent, your children deserve to enjoy the holidays. To that end, work together to keep the transitions between houses as smooth as possible and encourage your children to enjoy this time of year.
3. Keep the family traditions alive or create new family traditions. Even if you have worked out the logistics for the holidays, remember that stability and routine for children are paramount. If possible, continue to observe family traditions, such as decorating the tree together, attending church services, or spending time with loved ones to comfort and reassure your children. If you are separated from your spouse and are unable to carry on some of your prior family traditions, then consider establishing new family traditions. Make new ornaments to decorate the tree, bake together or plan a new holiday activity with your kids.
4. Remember what’s important. No matter what may be happening now, it’s a magical time of year where cherished memories are made with your children. Even though you may have issues with the other parent, be flexible, take a deep breath and keep the peace. It will not only promote a better parenting relationship with the other parent, but it will also show your children that there can still be happiness even in trying times. And who knows….maybe you’ll find yourself humming a carol or two this season.
5. If all else fails, contact an attorney. Sometimes parents just can’t work it out. If you have tried all of the above and still find yourself mumbling humbug, then you should contact a family law attorney to discuss your options and give you some peace of mind on how to handle the holiday season.
The material in this blog is not intended, nor should it be construed or relied upon, as legal advice. Please consult with an attorney if specific legal information is needed.
~Ward Family Law Group wishes you a peaceful and joyful holiday season~