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Parenting Plans, Review Early and Often to Prevent Holiday Frustration

If you’re reading this, then you are involved in a custody arrangement at some level. As the fall season progresses, it’s natural for our minds to leap forward to the upcoming holiday season. Maybe it’s a vision of how the day will be spent with your child, or perhaps you are on the hunt for the perfect gift. Either way, it’s important to review your parenting plan and custody agreements early in this process in order to prevent disappointment and frustration for you and your child. Read my thoughts on parenting plans in an article that I wrote last year – it’s an important step in the divorce process and one that can always be revisited if you don’t have one in place.


Although experts will always agree that maintaining consistency is important for children, if your family is anything like mine, holiday celebrations can change dramatically from year to year. Sometimes a festive meal or party may involve travel to a different home, other times the time of day that the holiday meal is served can change due to work or travel schedules. Here’s one piece of advice, pull out that custody agreement and read it again. Does it state clearly which holidays the child will share with you? If so, are there times stated for drop off and pick up?


In the best of situations, family can accommodate so that you and your child can participate in a family gathering together. There will be times that negotiations will need to take place. It’s always better to hold these discussions as early as possible, before the stress of the season hits and the child’s other parent may not be as flexible.


It is also important to put yourself in the shoes of the child. What will be happening in their day when you come together? Will they have just left a family meal at the other parent’s home? Will they have already overindulged so that they will be uninterested in sitting at a second holiday table for a large meal?


Consider creating new traditions that fit well into the parameters of your custody arrangement. Attending midnight services or baking holiday pies together that can be taken to their other parent’s home and shared can be just as special for a child as their memory of a former tradition.


When it comes to the holidays, expectations can often times be out of line with the reality of current situations. Do your best to get out in front of these situations with solutions to help minimize frustrations and you’ll have a much happier holiday season yourself. For help in understanding or creating a parenting plan, contact an experienced family lawyer.