5 Tips For Shared Child Custody During the Holidays
The holiday season is that special time of the year when parents naturally want to spend as much quality time with their children. Discussing and dividing up child custody during this time can often lead to additional stress for both parents and children.
Here are 5 tips on how to make shared custody as smooth and stress-free as possible:
1. Plan Ahead: Start discussing the schedule in advance so there is sufficient time to resolve any issues and assure both parents the ability to plan how they will spend quality time with the child.
2. Make Child-Focused Decisions: Try to understand that both parents want to spend time with their child and that sometimes one must make a concession that is child-focused. The best gift parents can give their children during the holidays is a continued sense of security and stability, so keeping the child's best interest in mind when planning the holiday schedule should be a priority for both parents.
3. Be Specific: Vague, open-ended dates and times, and even agreeing to "play it by ear" often leads to disagreements. Both parents should agree to not only a specific date, but also an exact time and location to exchange the child. This will set expectations for both parties, and allow the child to anticipate when he/she will see the other parent. If distance or other factors affect the ability to share custody during a holiday season (for example, one parent lives out of state), you may even consider having a self-executing order. For instance, mother has the child in even years for XYZ holidays and Father has the child in odd years. That way, it automatically alternates every year.
4. Schedule Calls or Video Chats: Agree on a specific time and who will initiate the call/chat to avoid disappointment for the parent and, more importantly, the child. Scheduling a time for the child to speak with the other parent gives him/her an opportunity to share holiday excitement and feel connected to both sides of the family.
5. Formalize the agreement: Put your agreement in writing and have it signed by court so that it is enforceable.
Having both parents commit and follow through with agreed-upon expectations allows for smooth transitions, and replaces the feelings of stress and conflict with the spirit of the holidays and the joy of making new memories.