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Co-Parenting: Tips for a Successful Holiday Season

When parents divorce, there are many issues that need to be addressed in any final child custody order from the court. These issues include the allocation of parental responsibilities, which parent the child will live with, and how much parenting time the other parent will get. All of these details should be included in the parenting plan that is presented to the family court judge overseeing the case. If the parents cannot come to an agreed-upon parenting plan, the court will make the final determination.

One of the issues that should be included in the parenting plan is which parent the child will spend each holiday with. Holidays such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are fairly easy to plan, but major holidays are often more difficult to come to agreements on. Some parenting plans specify that the child will alternate years with each parent, such as spending Christmas Eve with one parent and Christmas Day with the other one year but switch the following year. Another option is structuring the plan so that the child spends part of each holiday with both parents. This type of arrangement could work for parents who live close to each other.

Regardless of what type of holiday arrangement you have in your parenting plan, it is important to remember and consider your child’s feelings and best interest during this time. While you may be frustrated or upset because your child will be with the other parent during the holiday, never let your child know how you are feeling. Your child may already be struggling with feelings of sadness or guilt if they are going to be with their other parent, so you must stay positive and be encouraging. The following tips can be helpful:

Planning Ahead

Pre-planning with your child’s other parent can help save time – and disagreements – when you communicate any changes in schedules ahead of time. The holiday season is filled with many events, like school concerts, get-togethers with friends and family, work parties, and more. Planning ahead of time with the other parent will enable everyone to enjoy time with loved ones, without any arguments or resentments.


A big part of co-parenting is the willingness to compromise and be open to last-minute changes that can come up. This is especially common during the holiday season when family or friends can plan spur-of-the-moment gatherings or surprise visits. These occasions may mean a change in parenting time schedules. Being open and agreeable to these changes benefits your child the most.

Your Child’s Wishes

While the parenting plan lays out the holiday schedule, there is nothing that prevents you and your ex-spouse from considering what your child’s wishes are. Divorce is not only a loss for the couple ending their marriage, but also a loss for their children. It is not uncommon for feelings and emotions the child hasn’t shared to come out during the holidays. Parents need to be sensitive to the child’s needs and wishes. There may be times where your child wants to attend a holiday event with their other parent instead of spending the allotted time with you. Be open to agreeing with these wishes whenever possible.

Never Involve Your Child in Disagreements

Parents should never put their children in the middle of disagreements or force their children to choose sides during the holidays or any other day of the year. Parents need to communicate with each other and not use their child as a messenger, especially when it comes to important issues. Co-parenting can be difficult and stressful sometimes, but parents should also avoid speaking in a derogatory manner to or about the other parent in front of the child.

Coordinate Gifts

Children love to make their wish list for Santa and parents love seeing the joy in their child’s face when they open that “just have to have” present that was on the top of that list. But just like in other areas of co-parenting, communication is key. It is important for parents to discuss what gifts they are planning on buying in order not to duplicate gifts. Depending on the type of relationship you have, setting a budget on what each parent plans on spending is also a good idea. Unfortunately, this may not be possible if the relationship is an acrimonious one.

Don’t Forget to Enjoy

Divorce and child custody issues can leave parents feeling stressed and sad, and these feelings can be even more difficult to deal with over the holidays. This is why it is so important to take some time for yourself. Take advantage of the time your child is with their other parent by spending time with extended family and friends or attending holiday events in your community. Spend this time just relaxing at home – something we tend to have little time for during the holidays. When your child is home with you, start new traditions with them, make home-made holiday gifts for loved ones, or just have a hot chocolate and popcorn movie night. Don’t forget to enjoy the magic of what the holiday season is all about.

Call Our Family Law Firm for Assistance

All of us at Kirshenbaum Law Associates wish you and your family a healthy and happy holiday season.

If you are facing any custody issues, or any other type of family law issues, call our office at 401-467-5300 for a confidential consultation with a skilled Rhode Island family attorney and find out how we can help.