November 14 2012

Keeping Peace at the Holidays: Strategies for Divorced or Separated Parents

Blog Written by  Kevin J. Handy

For adults, the holidays are an opportunity to try to recapture some of the magic and wonder of their childhoods. Children, however, are just forming their memories and feelings about the holidays. Imagine that if, instead of associating the holidays with joy, you associated them with stress and fights. That is the reality for many children of divorced or separated parents, although it doesn’t have to be that way.

 There are a number of simple steps that divorced or separated parents can take to minimize conflict during the holidays.

1. Have a clear written holiday custody schedule in place.

The most important step that divorced or separated parents can take to minimize conflict during the holidays is to have a clear written holiday custody schedule in place. A written schedule is important so there are no misunderstandings and each parent can plan his or her holiday activities accordingly. The children should be told the schedule in advance so they also know what to expect.

2. Respect the schedule.

Once a written holiday custody schedule is in place, parents should make every effort to follow that schedule. Be on time or early for all custody exchanges. Being late for a custody exchange is probably the number one source of conflict between separated parents. The potential for conflict is higher during the holidays, when time with children is coveted and events are planned.

3. Stay in touch.

Even the best-laid plans can go awry due to unexpected traffic, illness, or other unforeseen events. Make sure you have your cell phone charged and with you at all times during the holidays and a number where the other parent can be reached. If you do encounter a problem that may cause you to be late, call immediately, apologize and offer to give the other parent make-up time.

4. Recognize that your children want to share the holidays with both of their parents.

Even if you dislike your ex-partner, in all likelihood your children still love and want to spend meaningful time with him or her during the holidays. Facilitating that time will make your children respect you. Interfering with that time will make your children resent you for spoiling their holidays.

5 Mind your own business.

You wouldn’t want your ex-partner to tell you how or with who to celebrate the holidays, so don’t try to tell him or her how to celebrate them. Even if you dislike your former partners’ traditions, in-laws or new significant other, keep your mouth shut unless they pose a real danger to your children.

6. Keep your focus on your children during the holidays.

Finally, remember that the holidays should be about creating wonderful memories for your children. Avoid the temptation to make the holidays about you and your needs.

Cooley & Handy, Attorneys at Law focuses its practice in all areas of family law, including divorce, custody and support.

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