Handling Holidays with Children

The Split Family’s Guide to Celebrating the Holidays

It is that time of year when things can become tense as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year plans for separated families are negotiated and implemented.

For most of us Christmas is a happy time, a time when families get together to swap presents and stories, share meals and homes and enjoy each other’s company.

But for some families with separated parents, Christmas can be a time of sadness, disappointment and disagreement and often children are caught in the middle.

If you do not have a co-parenting or separation agreement in place, nor have you been to court and have a court order explaining what your custody schedule will be, you may find yourself unsure of how to handle the holidays.

What can you do to make your holiday special for your children?

Have Discussions Early

Without a court order or agreement in place, you should start having discussions regarding a custody schedule for the holidays with the other parent sooner than later. As the holidays approach, many of us find ourselves stressed out, and having to discuss a custody schedule may be the last thing you want to address. At the Law Offices of Dana K. Whitten, LLC, we are skilled family law attorneys that can help you get through it with a few tips.

Be Reasonable

Regardless of what has happened between you and the other parent, it is important not to criticize the other parent when talking to the children.

You need to accept that your children love the other parent, and the relationship that they have with that parent must be protected. By criticizing the other parent, you can create tension for your children because then they want to please you and agree with you but at the same time they still love their other parent.

Get Creative

When establishing a holiday custody schedule, you should be aware that the celebrations might be different than in previous years. Try and keep an open mind and come up with creative suggestions to make sure that your children have ample time with both parents. There are many different ways to split holidays, and if you run out of ideas the Law Offices of Dana K. Whitten, LLC is skilled in negotiating these types of schedules.

Celebrating with your children on the actual holiday is not what should really matter. What is more important is being able to celebrate and create memories with your children—and if that has to happen on a different day, that’s better than missing the holiday altogether. For example, Santa could come twice during Christmas break - once with one parent and the second time with the other parent - and your child can have twice the amount of presents!

You could consider splitting the holiday or alternating the holiday in odd and even years. The Law Offices of Dana K. Whitten, LLC is able to provide you with many different options that have worked for other clients and families.

Tips for a Child-Focused Holiday Season

  • Make sure both parents know about any holiday plays, concerts or activities coming up and that they have the opportunity to attend.
  • Involve the children when making plans (if they are old enough).
  • Make the holiday time a happy childhood memory. One of the most important issues for childrens’ mental health is not to be exposed to disputes between their parents.
  • What would the children prefer to happen on Christmas day? Is splitting the Christmas day in half what the children would likely prefer? Or would they be happier not to travel on Christmas day – instead spending Christmas with one parent one year and Christmas with the other parent the next year? Would the children be excited to see both parents, grandparents or other people who are important to them on Christmas day?
  • If you have your children on Christmas day, encourage them to have meaningful contact with the other parent through the course of the day via Skype, Facetime or by phone.
  • If one parent has issues affecting the children’s safety, such as drug and/or alcohol problems, is there someone trusted who might supervise the time?
  • Would you let the children take some of the gifts to the other parent’s home?
  • Can the children give a gift to the other parent?
  • Have you planned holiday activities and outings, and taken time off work?

Attorney Dana Whitten represents clients in courts in most Maryland counties, including Montgomery County, where our Rockville office is conveniently located near the courthouse. We invite you to contact us at (301)762-2528 or using our online contact form to schedule a consultation. We look forward to working with you on your case.

For further reading, please see our Frequently Asked Questions about Child Custody.