It’s hard to believe we’re approaching the fall and winter holiday season. It’s even harder to believe that we are still dealing with the implications of COVID-19 as we prepare to celebrate the holidays. For many families, the concepts of social distancing and smaller gatherings will have an impact on how they attend and/or host Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. For families of divorce, this time of year often presents challenges.
As a collaborative divorce attorney and licensed mediator, I have a professional perspective on how to balance co-parenting during the holidays. As a divorcee, wife, mother, and stepmother, I have a personal perspective on it too. I know how difficult it can be to not only create a shared parenting agreement that works for everyone, but doing it with a positive outlook while your children are away from you during the holiday season.
For my family, co-parenting has been an adventure over the years. My husband and I have five children together. Two are my biological children (Ellie, 21 and Buchanan, 18) with my ex-husband and three are his biological children (Kase, 20; Jake, 18; and Walker, 16) with his ex-wife. Through two separate parenting agreements we’ve experienced co-parenting through various ages. When our agreements started approximately 11 years ago, our youngest, Walker, was just five years old. Now, our oldest, Ellie, is in her early 20s. While holidays have been hard and challenging at times, they’ve also been rewarding and fulfilling. I am so happy that my children and my step children have a strong relationship with all parents involved in their lives, both biological parents and stepparents. When my ex-husband and I divorced, we knew that we wanted our children to have balanced relationships, so we focused on that when we created our shared parenting agreement during our divorce process.
Ahead of the holidays, my husband and I communicate with our parenting partners when it comes to gift giving so we don’t duplicate gifts. This is especially important when you have younger children who write lists for Santa. If there is a disparage financially, consider creating your own special memories that aren’t in the form of gifts. This could include fun activities like an Elf breakfast or a family white elephant exchange. I think it’s important to recognize that no two homes are alike. Rather than seeing it as a frustration or competition, it should be celebrated. The fact that our children get to experience different traditions at various homes is exciting. That’s why I choose to support my parenting partners. My husband and I want to make sure our children know that it’s okay to want to go to another home that isn’t ours and it’s more than okay to have fun while they’re there.
Our children have their parents and stepparents all living in the Charlotte area. Because of that, we’ve have been able to coordinate holidays over the years. When my children were younger, their father and I would do our best to split the days of Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’d switch off in the middle of the day so our children could spend the actual holiday with both parents. I’ll admit, that was hard. It was important during that time to practice self-care and give myself some grace. As our kids got older and didn’t want to spend their holiday traveling from house to house, we modified our agreement. We now rotate each calendar year.
Like any parent, I miss my children when they’re not with me on Thanksgiving or Christmas. However, during those holidays when we don’t have any kids at home, my husband and I try to take some time for just us and will plan a trip or weekend away. Over the years, we’ve gotten creative with our holidays too. We still celebrate each holiday as a family, even if it’s more of a commemoration. For example, we’ll plan a pre or post-Thanksgiving dinner if we weren’t together for actual Thanksgiving. Now that our kids are older, I think they appreciate getting two turkey feasts with all the fixings. The same goes for Christmas. We’ll have a faux celebration before or after Christmas Day if we aren’t together on December 25. Families can do this with any holiday throughout the year. There’s an upside to this from a parental perspective too. Once you’re done celebrating your early Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas, you can relax and enjoy the time leading up to the actual holiday.
During this unprecedented time of COVID-19, this year might look a little different for many families. For those who have parenting partners living in different cities or states, there may be barriers when it comes to traveling due to safety concerns. It could also work the other way around. If children are learning virtually, they may be able to spend more time at another parent’s home since they don’t have limitations when it comes to school days and in-person attendance. Each family will handle this year as best as they can and I think that’s important to remember no matter the co-parenting situation. As a mother and stepmother, my husband and I are working with our parenting partners to plan early, be open to flexibility, and understand that our plan may need to change based on what is best for our children during this year’s holiday season.
We’re Here to Help
If you have any legal questions about your shared parenting agreement or need co-parenting guidance, please give us a call at (980) 260-1600. Our Charlotte-based team is here to help you and your family.
The ROAD to RESOLUTION Divorce Blog can help you differentiate the fact from the fiction, and guide you towards the support you need during this difficult time. Use our resources and services to find all the info you need—from pre-divorce education to drafting essential legal documents. Please contact us today to find out more about how we can help you.
Note: This blog is intended to be informational only and shall not be construed as legal advice.