Having a split family is never easy, but it’s especially difficult around the holidays. Everyone wants to spend the holidays with their family, so splitting the holidays between Mom’s house and Dad’s house can be a real struggle. I feel very blessed that my ex and I actually get along, so it’s easier to navigate the holidays. I can’t imagine negotiating who would get the first Thanksgiving visit if we couldn’t talk and be civil!
If you’re like most parents in a split family, your main concern is that the kids have a fun time and that they get to see all of their family. It’s important for your kids to see you and your co-parent working together and getting along to give them the best holiday season possible.
Handling Holidays as a Split Family Without Fighting
We share our holidays a few different ways in our split family. Sometimes that means that we all enjoy holiday activities together. For example this Halloween we all-Chris, my ex, and I-went trick-or-treating with the boys together. The boys got all of their parents in on the fun, and everyone had a blast. Other times, we share the day by splitting the day. According to our parenting plan, my ex gets every Christmas Eve and I get every Christmas Day. In reality, however, he has them until 7 or 8 Christmas Eve, when I pick them up and we do our Christmas Eve box before bed. They wake up with me Christmas morning, and I usually drop them off with my ex around 2 in the afternoon, so they can have Christmas dinner with his family. We realize that holidays are not about who “wins” the most time with the boys, it’s about the boys being able to spend time with their whole family, on both sides.
This one is huge in general when dealing with a split family, but sometimes it’s really hard. Simply be respectful of each other’s time with the kids. Don’t show up a half hour early to pick them up. Don’t show up a half hour late to drop them off. And especially, do not try to make the kids feel guilty for having fun with their other parent. If my ex takes the kids somewhere that I wanted to take them, either I take them anyways or I get over it, and I’m glad that they experienced it. On the other side of that, we always try to keep the other parent informed about what we’re doing, so that we avoid issues if possible. For example, this Saturday we’re taking the boys up to the mountains to get some family pictures [and our engagement pictures] done in the snow. I let my ex know last week so that if there were any issues we could work them out ahead of time. For the most part, he does the same for us.
Include Each Other
I mentioned this a bit above, but it is always nice for the kids when they have all of their parents included in a holiday. That is, assuming that the parents are civil and won’t spend the holiday fighting. Of course, they need time separately with each parent, so you have to find that balance. We tend to use an open invitation approach. We invite my ex to join us on any holiday activities that we go to. In our area the zoo does “zoolights” where the entire park is covered in Christmas lights. We go every year, and we always make sure that my ex knows that he is more than welcome. When we take the kids to see Santa, we make sure everyone knows about it so that they can be there if they choose.
Be Smart About Your Parenting Plan
This one is kind of difficult if you are already divorced, but when writing up your parenting plan, try to plan for things that could be an argument down the line. If something is important to you, make sure that it is in your plan. My family has a Cookie Day one Sunday every December. We’ve done it since before I was born. It is incredibly important to me that my kids never miss a Cookie Day, and my ex knows that, so Cookie Day is in our parenting plan. Also remember to be flexible, though. Our parenting plan says that he gets Christmas Eve and I get Christmas Day. That’s because when we wrote it, his family went to church and had Christmas Eve dinner every year, and mine celebrates Christmas Day. Now he has to work on Christmas Eve, and his family no longer does church or the Christmas Eve dinner, so we make sure they get some Christmas time as well.
I’m not going to lie to you, sometimes it’s awkward. Sometimes you two will be irritated with one another, and it will be really hard to stay happy and fun during the holidays. Sometimes it will be best to just follow your parenting plan exactly and limit contact. This is just what works for our split family.
What about you? Any tips or tricks for surviving the holidays with a split family?