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Helpful Tips for Co-Parenting During the Holidays

Dec 10, 2015 04:14AM ● By Ellen Wright

Divorce is often difficult and painful but it can be even more so during the holidays.  Coupled with the apprehension, if not fear, regarding the future and the outcome of pending legal proceedings, the stress of the holiday season can make even the toughest people feel emotionally, mentally and physically defeated.

As the Massachusetts Family Courts have evolved to favor a joint parenting arrangement, effective co-parenting, especially during the holiday season has become even more important.  Below are a few tips to consider when planning your holiday season activities and dealing with the other parent.    

Be Gracious and Compromise

While everyone tries to get in a little extra family time during the holidays, non-custodial parents should make a special effort to take advantage of opportunities to spend extra one-on-one time with the children.

It is important, however, not to put the children in the middle of a dispute about division of holiday time if one should arise.  Clamoring for extra holiday time to the loss of the other parent can be a mistake if it is done out of spite and causes arguments in the presence of the children.  The best interests of the children are always paramount and it is well-settled that a strong relationship with both parents (and their respective families) helps the children form and maintain relationships with their community.

Consider the possibility that what you want is not necessarily what may be best for the children, and so you should be open to compromise in order to make sure the children have the holidays as easy as possible and have as much quality family time as possible.  We teach children that this is the season of love, peace and joy but when they observe tensions escalate between family members it sends a very different message.  When parents argue, it can make a tumultuous situation worse and poison what is supposed to the happiest time of year for children. 

Schedule Ahead

If it is difficult to communicate with the other parent, it is important to be specific and to plan ahead when schedule parenting time during the holidays.  More often than not holiday parenting schedules will supersede regular parenting plans so while it may seem silly to think about Christmas in July, it can save all parties involved a lot of time and aggravation when Thanksgiving has arrived and holiday time all of the sudden needs to be divided.

By planning ahead you will avoid any last minute changes and will greatly decrease the likelihood of an argument in front of the children.  You may need to retain the services of a parenting coordinator or a family law attorney to negotiate a fair and reasonable parenting plan if the other parent refuses to cooperate and negotiate , but this is best done months in advance.   

Be Realistic and Keep The Holidays in Perspective

It is a mistake to obsess over the holidays trying to make them "perfect".  If you are in the middle of a contested divorce, do not try to put on a facade that nothing is wrong if you are struggling.  It's important to remember that it not worth hurting yourself emotionally just for the sake of keeping up appearances.

Keep in mind that you are not the first (nor the last) person to go through a bitter divorce over the holidays. Also, make it a point to manage holiday expectations and be realistic about what you can and cannot do.  Do not try to "out-do" the other parent by over committing yourself, breaking your shopping budget or making promises that you can't keep.  The reality is that the holidays are practically over was soon as they get started, and it serves no purpose to get overwhelmed and stressed out when tax season is right around the corner. 

Attorney Ellen Anna Wright is the Senior Attorney at Wright Family Law Group in Tewksbury specializing in Family Law, Personal Injury and Bankruptcy.  She is a single mother of 2, and lives in Lowell with her dog, cat and lizard. 

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