Handling the Holidays During Divorce

Going through a divorce is stressful and difficult at any time of the year, but it can feel particularly taxing as the holiday season approaches. Here are some tips on how to navigate the holiday season during a divorce or separation process, while minimizing stress and conflict.

Be Realistic

Even for families that are not going through a separation or divorce, there is no such thing as a “perfect” holiday. Both parties should have realistic expectations for the season and acknowledge that there may be detours in the typical plans, no matter how well thought out they are.

Two typical ways for separating parties to structure holidays are to divide them as evenly as possible or to alternate holidays (ie if one parent gets Thanksgiving, the other parent gets Christmas Eve and then they rotate it the following year). If dividing the holiday, parents should be considerate of the other’s plans. Additionally, if one parent doesn’t celebrate a holiday or it is not a special time for his or her family, then perhaps that holiday (or more time on that holiday) can be allocated to the other parent. It’s important that both sides evaluate what holidays are most meaningful and be willing to give on the ones that are not.

Make Plans Ahead of Time

Determining holiday arrangements before the holiday season will avoid conflict and scheduling stress once the season is in full swing. Both parties should also keep in mind that the children’s best interest should be the utmost priority. For example, while the parties may wish to divide Thanksgiving midday, the children may not want to travel to two ore more houses in a given 24 hour period, so the impact of scheduling should be evaluated from their standpoint as well.

For those with pending divorces, to ensure smooth transitions and no surprises, parties may want to enter a court order ahead of time that outlines the holiday schedule. The order should be as specific as possible, including drop off and pick up locations and times. A permanent Allocation Judgment should always contain a holiday schedule provision with all the same specificity as a temporary order.

Reassure the Children

Children want to feel secure and have predictability so reassuring them that they will have an enjoyable and fun holiday season will ease any stress they may have. It also helps for both parents to present the plans as a united front and to be positive about the schedule. If the parties are tense and upset, the children will be sure to pick up on it.