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Jennifer McCaskill
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6 tips for creating a custody plan during the holidays

The holidays are meant to be a joyous time spent with your loved ones, but for many divorced couples they can be stressful. Determining who has custody of the children on certain days can be frustrating and emotional for all parties involved.

However, it’s not impossible to work out a plan that works for everyone. Here are some tips if you need help determining a custody plan this holiday season.

1. Start communicating early

It may be an awkward conversation to have, especially if you are concerned your ex will not agree with your wishes. But the sooner you have the conversation, the less chance of an argument around the holidays you will have.

2. Review past holidays

Did you get the kids for Easter? Did your ex have them during Independence weekend? Review where your children spent past holidays to inform your winter holiday plans. In advance of next year, start a calendar where you record who had the kids on what holidays and for how long. This will help you both remember and distribute time equitably throughout the year.

3. Discuss gift planning

Don’t let the holidays turn into a contest for your children’s affections through gifts. Establish a budget together, determine how that budget will be divided, decide if gifts should be given jointly or separately, and execute a shopping plan. That way, your children are gifted in a way that brings them joy and doesn’t cause unnecessary tension between you and your ex.

4. Include the extended families

As you create a custody plan for the holidays, remember that you and your ex’s extended families will want to see the children too. Discuss any extended family celebrations to determine who will have the kids for what celebrations and if there are conflicting days. If there are conflicts with extended family celebrations, find a way to allow grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins to see the children another time.

5. Consider a shared celebration

Not every family is able to have a shared celebration after a divorce, but if you believe it is a possibility that would make you and your ex happy and make the holidays less stressful for your children, it may be worth exploring. A shared day with you, your ex and your kids may be an opportunity to ensure both parties get equal holiday time.

However, this may not be possible for every family. If you and your ex feel it would be emotionally healthier to have separate celebrations, that it the best option for your children.

6. Patience, patience, patience

In addition to the seasonal stress, you and your ex are handling the emotional stress of getting fair time with your children. As much as possible, be patient with them and with yourself when developing a plan. 

There is no “one size fits all” plan that will work for every family, but early planning and proper communication can help alleviate the stress and emotional toll of sharing custody during the holidays.

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