The holidays are a stressful time for everyone, and this is especially true for parents of divorce and their kids. If this is the first holiday season you are going into since your divorce, you may find that the parenting schedules you set up are not going to work as you originally planned. There are a lot of possible reasons for this.
For example, you or your spouse may have an aging parent out of state who requires a lot of your time and energy, and you need more scheduling flexibility (particularly around the holidays) to attend to their needs. Another common situation is employment. If your job requires a lot of travel, or you work in an industry (such as retail) where you are required to put in a lot of overtime in November and December, you may need to think a little “outside the box” to make the holiday co-parenting plan work.
Your New Normal
As a divorce mediator, a large percentage of my clients have children. And when it comes to the parenting plan, spouses tend to get caught up in what is “normal” instead of what is best for them and their children. One of the things I like best about divorce mediation is that parents get to decide what is normal for themselves and their families, rather than some common set of “rules” that others have used but may not be applicable at all to your situation.
I have had clients with all types of unique circumstances. Some have needed to schedule parenting time around the sports schedules of their kids, others have set up different plans for each of their children, and some even decide on split custody, where one child lives with one parent and the other child lives with the other.
The holidays can be an emotionally charged time, and for at least the first year or two, the kids could be sad and grieving over the breakup of the family. For this reason, I usually encourage couples to try to keep as much of their current holiday traditions in place, and even start some new and fun traditions as well. The point is, as long as you and your ex agree on something and it is not illegal, you can work out your parenting plan in whatever way you choose.
How Creative Can Your Holiday Co-Parenting Plan Get?
People often ask how far they can go in developing a holiday parenting plan that suits their needs. As I said before, as long as you agree and it’s legal, it’s fair game. Here is an example. An Italian couple in Brooklyn with two kids decided to get a divorce. They were continually arguing and realized they were no longer compatible. However, for the sake of the children, they decided to stay together in the same house.
They have a townhouse with a lower level apartment they used to rent out. Now, the father lives in the downstairs apartment and the daughters are able to see both parents every day. The parents have maintained this arrangement even though the mother is re-married and the father has a girlfriend. The kids love it because their parents are not fighting anymore, and they still get to see them all the time. You can watch their story at:
The co-parenting plan developed by the parents in this story is not for everyone, but it is a great example of a couple who is living “outside the box” and not doing what society would consider “normal”. Most importantly, their out-of-the-ordinary arrangement will have a lasting positive impact on their kids, which will pay dividends for the long-term.
As the holidays approach, take some time to consider how you and your ex should handle your co-parenting plan. Are there some adjustments that could be made to accommodate the specific needs of one of the parties? Or maybe there are some creative ways you hadn’t previously considered to make the schedule smoother. Remember, this is your family and these are your kids, so whatever schedule works best for you is what should become your new normal.