Whenever you experience a breakup with a spouse or long-term partner the grief and sadness can be overwhelming for you. But when you add kids to the mix the situation can quickly turn to tragic. Especially if the two parents cannot resolve to do what is best for the children. One of the hardest things many dissolving families cope with as the parents break up is how to share the holidays with their mutual children. Here are some tips to keep this issue kid centered yet still meet the needs of the adults involved.
Determine Which Holidays Are On The Table
Not all families celebrate the same holidays. It is crucial to figure out which occasions are important to observe within your now-expanding family constellation. A good idea is for each parent to list the holidays that he or she feels need to be divided. If one parent really has no tradition or interest in a day that is important to the other one date has an obvious answer.
The Every Other Approach
Once the dates are identified flip a coin to award the first holiday. Then give the new one to the other parent and so on for the first year. During the second year flip the assignments and follow this pattern in the coming years. This solution works well whether you are living in the same area or your kids have to travel a distance to connect with the other parent.
The Parenting Time Schedule Approach
If you are sharing custody equally you may just let most holidays be celebrated on the dates one or the other of you would normally have the kids. As the years pass you will likely celebrate lesser holidays. Like the Fourth of July or Memorial Day fairly equally because they will eventually fall on your day or weekend. Parenting time based on a 5-2-2-5 schedule or an every other week arrangement will have this work out equally over time, with the benefit of consistency and lack of drama.
The Major Holiday Approach
This one is a hybrid. Most holidays sort out on the parenting schedule already set. Create a more formalized schedule for more major holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter or Thanksgiving. If the two parents are of different faiths or traditions each sees the children on “their” observed holiday. If both celebrate similar holidays a little more creativity is needed.
Multiple day holidays like Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah can be split between the parents. Pay attention to what is the tradition of each parent to help with this. If dad’s family opens presents on Christmas Eve and mom’s does so on Christmas Day, assign the times accordingly. If that neat distinction does not work, consider flipping the coin again and starting a pattern for the first year that will carry through.
Stand alone, one day holidays should be allocated by the every other method.
The Fluid Day Approach
When a holiday is “married” to a specific day of the week as is Thanksgiving or Memorial or Labor Day it may not work to let a parenting schedule allocate the celebrations equally. Consider having one parent celebrate Thanksgiving on the traditional Thursday and the other on Friday, Saturday or Sunday for example.
All these ideas, plus variations that make sense for your children and their right to see both parents and extended family on important days, can work if you let them. Set aside animosity. Try to make the holidays a magical time for your kids, especially in the first months after your breakup. If none of these solutions work you may need to ask the court for help. Or use a parenting facilitator to figure out a schedule that works. A facilitator is reasonable and respects the feelings and rights of kids and parents.