One of the most challenging timesharing issues for divorcing parents is where children celebrate the holidays. In Florida?s typical orders for timesharing, children spend Thanksgiving weekend with their mother one year and their father the following year, and alternate the first half and second half of winter break with the parties usually alternating Christmas Eve and Day with the children.
This is, in ways, much more progressive than what happens in some states ? where one parent misses out entirely on Christmas with his or her kids in alternating years, with child exchanges happening as late as Dec. 28. But our approach underscores the need for parents to be flexible with their Christmas celebrations ? and, for parents new to divorce, to account for the new reality of having to share children with an ex-spouse on what in most families is the ultimate family day.
Here are some simple tips to keeping the holidays merry for children and their parents:
Be civil ? It?s a stressful time for all, including children, and bickering between parents can add to that stress. E-mails are a good tool for the back-and-forth that might need to take place regarding exchange arrangements, presents, and family visits ? it allows you to carefully craft responses and have a paper trail (so to speak) as to what you and the other parent agreed to.
Make new traditions ? You don?t have to dispense with all the traditions that you and your children created, of course. But don?t be afraid to establish new traditions that fit your new holiday schedule and your new situation. In the short term, many children will miss the way Christmas used to be, but with time and practice, those same children come to appreciate and value celebrating two Christmases.
Try to maintain routines ? Part of what makes the holidays so emotionally charged for children, for better and for worse, is the disruption of a child?s usual routine. There?s no school, there might be travel to visit family (or family coming to visit), and it can be more challenging to enforce bedtimes and other daily routines. Anything you can do to keep children to their day-to-day routines ? or at least, a holiday version of it ? will help minimize their stress.
If you want to read more on this topic, Syd Sharples with the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas has an excellent two-part article on this topic, that starts with the observation, ?Divorce re-forms families? ? emphasizing that children are now part of two distinct families ? and looks at the holidays with the children?s emotional well-being as the primary focus.