Holidays and vacations can be difficult when it comes to deciding which parent gets to spend a certain amount of time with the children. A pre-planned holiday parenting agreement can help circumvent the stress and frustration that always seems to be heightened at this time of year.
Start by making a list of all of the holidays your family celebrates or feel is important. This should include vacations and school breaks during the year. Then consider the scheduling options below to see which might work best for your family.
Swap Even/Odd Years
This plan assigns certain holidays such Christmas, Thanksgiving, Spring Break, etc. to one parent during an odd year. Then it reverses to the other parent during the even year. For example, this year the kids may spend Thanksgiving and Spring Break with Dad, and Christmas and Easter with Mom. Then, next year this plan would work in reverse.
Split Holidays in Half
Dividing the holidays allows the kids to spend part of the “big day” with each parent and celebrate each holiday twice. This solution is workable if there is not a lot of travel involved causing the kids to miss out on main portions of the celebration. Parents may also want to use the even/odd years to decide who gets the first or second half of the holiday.
If the kids are with one parent during an important holiday, the other parent can make plans to observe the same holiday at a different time. For example, Christmas could be celebrated with the other parent a week later much to the kids’ delight.
If parents celebrate different holidays due to religious observations, cultural heritage, or family traditions, it may be best to develop a fixed holiday schedule that allows the children to celebrate the same holidays with the same parent each year. For example, one parent may prefer to celebrate Christmas and Easter, while the parent may choose to have the kids during Thanksgiving and Kwanzaa.
Not all parents want to be tied down to a specific schedule, and being flexible is okay as long as both parents are on board. However, parents will still need to communicate and plan ahead to some degree so that the kids are not left in limbo at the last minute. Otherwise, this “go with the flow” attitude can be very unsettling for little ones.
The suggested options above were found in NOLO’s Building a Parenting Agreement That Works that provides real world solutions and worksheets regarding common parenting issues including holiday parenting agreements.
If you need help working out a proactive parenting agreement for any type of family situation, please feel free to contact Dr. Susan K. Daniel, who is member of the Collaborative Family Law Group of Central Florida. This team approach helps families civilly resolve disputes outside of the courtroom and focus on the welfare of the children.