The weather has turned a corner. As children return to their classrooms and Halloween candy reappears in store aisles, families plan their holiday seasons. Like any other families, that those with separated or separating parents.
Questions about the children’s holiday schedule can cause anxiety for children and parents, especially if this will be the first holiday season since separation. It helps to keep a few guiding principles in mind and focus on “best practices.”
Modeling cooperation and respect
Children adjust better when parents negotiate and collaborate, as the New Jersey Judiciary reminds parents. They clearly do best when parents keep the children’s interests first, protect them from disputes between their parents and support the children’s relationship with the other parent.
For example, one or both parents might develop relationships with new partners, and children deserve good relationships with them as well. Children are not responsible for supplying information to each parent about the other parent’s habits and relationships.
Stability in the child’s interest
When parents focus on sticking to the agreed-upon schedule, it increases trust between the former spouses and, even more importantly, gives the children a more safe, predictable and stable life.
Likewise, experts encourage parents to communicate with each other about the children’s health needs and diet preferences, medical contact information and the like.
Sticking to the parenting plan
Children want and deserve good memories of the holidays. Many parenting plans alternate holidays between one parent and the other, while others split every holiday down the middle.
Depending on where you are in the process, you may already have a parenting plan developed, filed and approved by the court. Most families are happier and more successful when the parents make the decision, often with the help of mediators or attorneys, and submit a mutually agreeable plan to the court for their order.
The more realistic the plan the plan, the better. It can strive for both flexibility for emergencies and other reasonable deviations as well as consequences for real disregard and violation. Because the needs of children and parents develop, periodic chances to revisit details can also be built in.