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Co-Parenting Tips for the Holiday Season

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Once parents get a divorce, they have to learn how to create a new normal, especially during the holidays. If this is your first holiday season without your former spouse, you may not be 100% sure of how to celebrate the holidays. Do you keep the same traditions? Do you celebrate everything separately? Do you create new holiday traditions? Do you go on vacation so you keep your mind off the holidays?

In reality, every family situation is different, so what works for one family may not work for another. Whatever your family’s situation, this article goes over some advice for parents of divorce. Regardless of your circumstances, you should be able to use some of these post-divorce co-parenting tips!

For Exes Who Get Along Well

Are you one of those fortunate parents who get along well with your ex-husband or wife? If so, congratulations on accomplishing a “good divorce.” Even if you had a friendly divorce, that doesn’t mean the first holiday season post-divorce is easy. If you find yourself alone on Christmas or celebrating Thanksgiving with your single friends, it can be hard not to think about how the holidays used to be, and that’s okay. Each year, it will get easier.

Here is our co-parenting advice to parents who get along well with their ex:

  • If you and your ex are single, consider celebrating the holidays with your children as you did before – as a family. If you’re on friendly terms, there’s no reason not to spend the holidays together unless you would rather celebrate them separately.
  • If you have an annual tradition, for example, you always have Thanksgiving at your brother’s house, consider inviting your ex to the dinner if it’s okay with the host.
  • If your ex has your children on a specific holiday, keep yourself distracted by making plans yourself with friends or family.
  • If this is your first holiday season without your kids and you want to be alone, by all means, you have every right to be alone! Light a fire in the fireplace, binge in Netflix, or snuggle up with a warm blanket and dive into a good book. If you want to take a short weekend trip away to focus on yourself, go ahead and splurge.
  • If it’s not realistic to practice the same family traditions because your ex is seeing someone new or they’re out of town, create new traditions with your children that will build fond memories for them.

When You Don’t Get Along With Your Ex

If you don’t get along well with your ex, it’s going to be very important to stick to the court orders in terms of child custody and visitation over the holidays. Hopefully, you can both treat each other with respect during this time of the year, even if you don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues.

Here’s our advice to parents who do not get along well:

  • Be sure to stick to the Parenting Plan during the holidays, especially if any deviation from it would cause problems.
  • This may be difficult to do, but for your children, it’s nice to encourage them to make the other parent a Christmas or Hanukkah gift, even if you don’t expect the other parent to do the same in return. Or, if you have a teenager who works, you can encourage them to get a gift for the other parent. The gesture spreads good cheer.
  • Be nice and respectful to your ex and their family, even if it’s difficult.
  • If your ex’s parents want to see your children around the holidays and they’re good people, encourage your children to spend time with them. Remember, family is very important as is your children’s relationship with your ex’s parent and siblings.

When Your Ex is Away for the Holidays

Sometimes, a couple divorces and one of the spouses moves out of state or they’re simply out of town for the holidays. For example, maybe your ex is on a honeymoon or out of town on business during the holiday season. In that case, you’re on your own with the kids. If you have your children by yourself during the holidays, here’s our advice:

  • If the other parent is simply out of town, encourage your children to call their other parent, talk to them over FaceTime or Skype on the holiday itself.
  • Make the holiday special for your kids.
  • Whether you traditionally cook or not, consider opening up a Betty Crocker cookbook (or a low-carb or Paleo cookbook) and cooking a delicious holiday meal with your children. Invite friends or family if you want or just enjoy a nice meal with your kids alone.
  • If you have annual traditions that your children love and you can repeat them this year, be sure to do so.
  • If you cannot repeat your annual traditions for some reason, ask your children for ideas and create new ones.
  • If staying home is too painful, consider renting a cabin or doing something different for the holidays.
  • Consider trying something new, even if it means making Christmas gifts or decorating the tree with a theme or working at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving. Sometimes, trying something totally new can get your mind off the divorce while providing you and your children with a sense of fulfillment.

Next: Why Second Marriage Can Be Better Than the First

We hope you found some of the tips in this article useful. If you need legal assistance with a divorce or child custody matter, contact Claery & Hammond, LLP for a free consultation.


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