When parents divorce, their Divorce Decrees usually contain specific visitation provisions which spell out when each parent has the children during the holidays. Some parents insist on strict adherence to this schedule, while others are flexible and “go with the flow.” Dr. Ruth Peters recently wrote an article in which she lists the following suggestions (from both herself and Isolina Ricci, author of Mom’s House, Dad’s House) to help divorced parents with regard to holiday planning:
- Try to plan your holiday times well ahead. If you haven’t made plans yet, do it now!
- Try to be flexible if it really doesn’t harm your own holiday plans, and if the kids voice a desire to visit with both sides of the family. If the ex-spouses can co-parent cooperatively, they may be able to give their children the best gift of all — spending time with each parent.
- Consider your hopes for this holiday season — the times with the children, the times without the children. Have several versions, all acceptable to you. Be very specific when making plans. Which parent will have the children, which day? For how long? Who will do the transporting?
- Present these alternatives to the other parent. (If you don’t communicate well in person or on the telephone, use the mail or email.) Give the other parent time to think about your proposals and to respond.
- If you talk in person or by phone, follow up your understanding of the conversation with a brief and informal note of confirmation. When emotionally laden post-divorce holidays tangle with practical matters such as dates, plans, expenses and responsibilities, written confirmation is essential.
- Be careful and cautious if considering having Mom, Dad and the kids all under one roof just like old times for Christmas, as this often sends the wrong message to the kids. Pretending that you are reunited again for the children often becomes too painful for the adults and inappropriate for children, who harbor hopes for a reconciliation (which most children do).
- If your children are old enough to participate in the planning stages, by all means make them part of your discussions and give them a voice in the decision about holiday visitation. However, the final responsibility for holiday decisions should remain with the adults, as expecting children to make heavy decisions does not produce happy holidays.