The anticipation of the first major holiday following a separation or divorce is often fraught with concern and worry for parents. Anxious mothers and fathers strive to create as much normalcy and maintain as many traditions as possible for their children. Although this may understandably feel like yet another painful aspect of a separation, parents can most certainly find ways to make that first holiday a little easier for themselves and their children.
Determine a Visitation Schedule
If there is no agreement in place for holiday scheduling outside of the typical custody agreement, parents should work together as much as possible to compromise for important dates, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is dependent upon several factors, including the age of the child and if the child is attending school. Recognize that some dates may be more important to one parent than the other. On those dates of equal importance to both parents, try to take the time to understand that the other parent also wants to spend time with the child, and that it is certainly in the best interest of the child to enjoy his or her holidays with both parents. In the case of younger children who are not yet in school, some parents may choose to split the holiday, with the child spending the morning with one parent and the afternoon with the other. Other parents may prefer to celebrate with the child on the day before or after the holiday.
For older, school-aged children, parents may use the school break to define the holiday schedule. For example, one parent may spend the first half of the school break with the child, and the other parent may spend the second half of the break. Often, parents choose to alternate these choices from year-to-year. If parents are having an especially difficult time compromising on holidays, a judge can decide a schedule for the families. However, because of the deeply personal and cultural nature of the holiday season, it is within the benefit of the children for the parents to decide together what is best for their child as much as possible. A family lawyer is always available to guide these discussions and offer insight.
Maintain Normalcy, But Be Open to New Traditions
A separation, particularly around the holidays, can be a very lonely experience. Parents and children alike are hurting, missing the comfort of old routines. In this situation, parents may feel tempted to skip familiar family traditions. Instead, work to keep up these traditions and perhaps create some new ones. If you put up a Christmas tree each year, for example, continue this tradition. This time, though, you can add a new tradition of hiding a special ornament within the branches, and the first child to locate it opens the first present. Allow children to experience special, unique traditions with each parent. Maybe this is the year you take a family Christmas card with just you and your children, ready for a fresh start together. Or, perhaps this is the time you throw a holiday party, inviting friends and relatives into your new life. Follow your child’s lead and keep the line of communication with them open. Ease everyone into this new way of living, with the understanding that there is still love and comfort on both sides of the family.
With careful planning, communication, and a little creativity the holidays don’t have to be another overwhelming aspect of divorce and separation for families.
To speak for free with a family lawyer at our firm regarding this or any other matter, you can reach our Columbia office at 410-964-9622, or our Annapolis office at 410-268-2488.