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Hark! The Holiday Parenting Plan


Did you watch the latest episode of ABC’s Trophy Wife? Desperate to have a proper family holiday, Malin Akerman invites both of her husband’s ex-wives to celebrate Christmas together with their children. Her intentions are certainly sweet””this is indeed a season for loved ones and traditions, but the night ends in disaster (save for an amazing Ace of Base tribute).

This sort of feel-good family Christmas might be ideal for a television show, but it’s just one of the many parenting plans real families deliberate between over the winter break. It would certainly be lovely if everyone could come together and partake in the well-worn rituals of pajama mornings and viewings of It’s A Wonderful Life, but don’t try to unite for this one occasion if there’s still too much animosity between ex-spouses. There’s no point in ruining the holidays with emotional baggage and having your children talk about it in therapy for years to come.

At the time of final orders, many families opt for the 50-50 split, with one parent taking on Christmas Eve and the other Christmas Day. This sounds great in theory, but the practicalities of shuttling children around can be a logistical nightmare and will certainly cut into some of the holiday traditions””not to mention the constant concern of “Will Santa know where I am?” If you do go this route, Wevorce CEO Michelle Crosby suggests making the transition between houses at unique times in order to squeeze in as many hours of festivities as possible.

Attempting to share the holidays also makes traveling””whether to see other family, or for some fun in the sun””over the winter break nearly impossible. In the end then, it may be best for one parent to sacrifice this time of year altogether and to either take the reins the following year or to use Thanksgiving as a sort of early Christmas. There are several rituals, such as decorating the Christmas tree, going ice skating on Evergreen Pond or waiting for the ball to drop on New Year’s Eve, that can be observed throughout the month of December and will still create plenty of festive moments.

The most important thing to remember while finalizing those holiday plans is to keep everything child-centric. If your son or daughter needs to see Mommy and Daddy together on Christmas morning, draw on the spirit of the season and try your best to deliver that picture-perfect scene. If you don’t celebrate Christmas or if the celebrations don’t extend much past the turkey dinner, arrange to split the holiday into big chunks of time (a week each, at least) so that your children can go on that ski vacation after all.

Finally, don’t turn everything into a competition for attention with your ex-spouse. As difficult as it might be, solidify your plans well in advance to ensure you do gift your children with loads of magical holiday memories.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Divorce Matters! Tweet us @divorcematters with your holiday parenting tips.