Reducing Holiday Stress for Children of Divorced Parents

Holidays with Divorced Parents

 Florida law requires that parents seeking a divorce create a parenting plan that will encompass co-parenting responsibilities and time sharing. This plan is reviewed and approved by the court, so that it reflects the true and best interests of the children.  One of the specific areas that are addressed in a parenting plan is time sharing during the holidays.  This includes making a holiday visitation schedule that will show with whom and at what specific times your children will spend the holidays.  Some of the common ways that this time is divided between the parents is to alternate the holidays every other year, split each holiday time in half, schedule holiday celebrations on two different days or assign specific holidays to each parent.

The major holidays for most families are Thanksgiving and Christmas.  As parents, we want our children to have happy holiday memories that will enhance their sense of self, encourage social bonding and create family traditions that they can carry into adulthood.  For children of divorce, creating an atmosphere conducive to these goals can be especially challenging, as the children miss the closeness and security of having their parents together.  By splitting the holidays, children have a disruption of routines, rituals and traditions, as if they are caught between two families. The reality of divorce is that children can have feelings of guilt if they are spending more time with one parent than the other. Parents can inadvertently say things to their children regarding the holiday arrangements that can exacerbate their guilt.  For example, one parent can express that they will be lonely on the holiday without them, making the children feel guilt and sadness for the day.  As there is tremendous stress involved with splitting holidays between two parents, some choose to spend the holidays together for the sake of their children, but this can bring false hope for their parents to reconcile.  Or, as children are very astute and sensitive to their parent’s moods, they can feel the anger and tension between their parents on that day.  If either parent introduces a new romantic relationship into their family gathering for the holiday scene, it can be hurtful and interrupts the children’s emotional healing process that is necessary after the divorce.

The Law Office of Frank P. Remsen understands the complexities of co-parenting and the emotional impact of holiday planning for your children.  While each child and every situation is unique, the best advice that we can offer in making decisions about time sharing for the holidays is to know your children. It is important to be attentive to their moods and facilitate ongoing communication regarding their thoughts and feelings.  Put aside your differences with your ex-spouse to focus on making the holidays about the children.  Encourage a healthy relationship with the other parent without competing for the loyalty and attention of your children. Aim to work cooperatively with your ex-spouse, as this will enhance your child’s happiness, stability and future well being.  Let us assist you with a parenting plan that will reflect the needs of your family, making it possible to embrace the spirit of the season, continuing with the old but making new traditions. Call the Law Office of Frank P. Remsen for a consultation to discuss any aspect of your divorce, parenting plan or family law issue.