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Questions About Co-Parenting & the Holidays

If you and your child’s other parent are not together anymore, you may be worried about how you will navigate the holidays, especially if you are not amicable with one another. Below, we will answer common questions parents have about co-parenting during the holidays.

How Do You Divide the Holidays with Co-Parenting?

If you and the other party are in the beginning stages of working out a custody arrangement, you may be wondering how you all should share parenting time during the holidays. As with the standard custody arrangement, there are a variety of ways that you can split time, and the way that works for you and your family will be dependent on a variety of factors, such as:

  • Each parent’s schedule
  • Whether either parent has strong ties to certain holidays
  • The amicability between parents

While some co-parents may decide to assign fixed holidays that each parent spends with their child each year, others often alternate which holiday each parent has from even to odd years. If parents are amicable and have allowed their child to have enough time to adapt to their separation, they may also consider spending holidays together.

In considering what the best way to split the holidays is, you should think about:

  • How your child is processing the divorce. Spending the holidays together can send mixed messages to your child, especially if you are recently separated or divorced. Before you spend the holidays together, be sure to check in with your child to see how they are processing the divorce or separation.
  • How far you are from one another. Parents who live close together may find it easier to split holidays (i.e. each spend half of a holiday with their child) than those who live further away from one another.
  • How well you all get along. Arguing in front of your children can make your child feel isolated or as if they have to pick sides, and parental diagreements can ruin a holiday. If you and your co-parent do not get along well, you might consider what type of division would limit your interaction with one another.
  • How each parent views certain holidays. Many holidays have a religious undertone or can have special significance to some people more than others. Consider whether you can divide some or all holidays based on which parent has a stronger connection with that holiday.

Can You Use Child Support Payments to Cover Gifts?

Co-parents should not only try to coordinate gifts to make gift-giving easier but they should also consider discussing whether child support payments will be used for gifts. However, it is important to note that the decision really lies with the parent who receives support. The receiving parent has control of how those funds are used and has the right to say they won’t use support payments to cover the other parent’s gift expenses.

How Can We Make Our Kids a Priority During the Holidays?

A common holiday co-parenting tip is to prioritize your kids and make the holiday special for them. Some practical ways you can show your child they are your priority is:

  • Review your holiday schedule. While holiday plans can often go awry, your custody schedule is legally binding and should be abided to; review the plan and try to make the exchange and drop-off go as smoothly as possible.
  • Discuss the holiday plans with them. Your child may enjoy feeling included in holiday plans and can benefit from having discussions with you about the holidays, how thye might look different, and what they’re worried about or looking forward to.
  • Communicate with your co-parent. The better you and your co-parent communicate, the more smoothly things will go, which benefit your child. Consider using a co-parenting app or shared calendar to help foster healthy communication.
  • Help your child get the other parent a gift. By helping your child make or purchase the other party a gift, you can show that you are prioritizing their feelings and helping to foster a relationship with the other party.

What Are Healthy Boundaries for Parents During the Holiday?

During the holidays, co-parents can benefit from setting boundaries with one another, their families, and/or themselves. Brené Brown defines healthy boundaries as “our lists of what’s okay and not okay,” and the boundaries needed between co-parents can vary from case to case. Common boundaries co-parents may set include imposing limits on:

  • What can and cannot be said about new dating partners
  • Whether a co-parent or your co-parenting situation is up for discussion with family
  • What expense limits can be placed on gifts

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