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Co-parenting and parenting plans during the holidays

Halloween has just passed, so the holiday season is now upon us. Divorced or separated spouses understand that it will be a time of challenging logistics as kids are shuttled between homes. Sometimes it can mean that one parent will attend extended family gatherings minus the kids. On the other hand, the parents may even choose to spend the holiday together, which can be hard if they had an acrimonious divorce.

Below are some thoughts adapted from experts on how to make this holiday experience better for all involved, particularly if the divorce was a difficult one.

Remember that you are the parents: It is the parents’ job to make sacrifices so that their children can lead happier lives. One of those things the parents may need to do is be civil to each other when the Christmas presents are to be opened. Do not make a big deal about it, but try to form an agreement that holiday events or exchanges are no place for a fight.

Think about what is best for the kids: Maybe the kids really want to go to Grandma Smith’s on Christmas Eve because their cousins from Montana will be there this year. Try to avoid taking this away from the kids, even it is during your parenting time. Both kids and the ex will understand on some level that you were willing to do this for the kids. A simple solution used in many parenting plans is to alternate years, but accommodating the travel and holiday plans of other family members will take patience and understanding.

Coordinate with ex-spouse on gifts: While it may be hard to talk to or agree with them on some things, coming up with a list of gifts avoids duplicate gifts, one-upping on gift giving and both parents can take credit for larger gifts that are potentially most cherished. If mom says, “no Nerf guns,” do not ignore the request -- playing by the rules keeps the stress level down.

Encourage the children to pick or make a gift for the other spouse: This sends a message to the children that the divorce is between the parents and does not mean that it is the end of the family unit.Simplifying the holidays

Parents should make every effort to be prompt when schedules need to be coordinated. A parent should also look for ways to fix logistics/arrangements that do not work or no longer work because the kids are older – this can be done through a modification to the parenting plan with help from a family law attorney.

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