Sharing custody is difficult for families in Oklahoma; however, sharing custody during the holidays is one of the most difficult aspects of child custody cases. Most people want to spend time with their children and family during the holidays, but divorce almost always comes with spending some time away from your children. The equitable approach is to divide holidays evenly; however, that means the child will miss at least one of their parents on each holiday.
Additionally, it is hard to split holidays to feel fair to the children and both parents. In many cases, the holiday most important to one parent is the most important to the other as well.
Adding the wishes of extended family and grandparent visitation can increase the stress on all parties. Children are happier and healthier when parents work together to reduce stress this time of year. With that in mind, here are tips that help this time of year:
Have a Plan
One of the most common options in dividing holiday visitation is to alternate the year of each major holiday or some other alternating schedule. One parent might get the child on Easter and Thanksgiving on even years and the other parent has the child for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Then, holiday visitation is flipped the next year. This affords both parents some of the most important or biggest holidays each year and can help eliminate unnecessary conflict. Creating a schedule like this requires both parties to compromise. An experienced family law attorney can help you create and understand your holiday visitation schedule.
As mentioned above, implementing a fair holiday schedule takes compromise and maturity. Not everything will seem “fair” when sharing holidays with the other parent; however, being flexible on schedules, and even last minute changes, is sometimes necessary for a healthy co-parenting relationship. Try to be mindful of how the other parent celebrates and attempt to work together to find ways to accommodate both parent’s schedules. It’s also important to remember that last minute changes will occur. For example, if a child is sick, or an emergency arises, do your best to adapt to and implement last minute schedule changes. This is good behavior to model for your children and will ease their stress, which should be your ultimate goal.
Start New Family Traditions
After a divorce or separation, both parents and children experience many emotions. This is particularly true around the holidays. It can be instinctual to try to maintain all of your old traditions; however, your family is now different, and it’s perfectly okay for let go of old traditions in favor of new ones that better suit your new family structure. Try introducing a tradition from your childhood. For example, read a holiday book or make a special holiday recipe together with your children. Creating new traditions and memories can be fun and exciting for everyone involved.
Be Kind To Yourself
Be kind to yourself and know that it is okay that things have changed. Children are resilient and one of the most important things you can do to help them through this time is to model self-care. Parents who model this behavior are generally happier and healthier. Be mindful of how you are feeling and make sure you get enough sleep, eat well, and invest in yourself through a hobby or exercise: whatever healthy outlet you prefer! Be intentional about this, because taking care of yourself makes you better able to care for others. Lastly, self-care can be difficult when you are constantly under stress. If you’re having difficult managing during this time of year, don’t hesitate to seek help from a therapist.
Holidays are stressful and many clients find holidays even more difficult after divorce; however, the key is to focus on what is best for the children and being open to different solutions that allow both parents to spend quality time on or around each holiday with their children. Years from now, children of divorce will not remember who they spend Thanksgiving Day with, i.e. mom or dad; what they will remember is the happiness they felt during the holidays. Make plans, be flexible, start new traditions, take care of yourself, and above all else, put your children’s best interests at the forefront of your mind to achieve this goal.