Determining child custody and visitation is a contentious, emotional process. Establishing visitation schedules for a non-custodial parent, grandparents and step-parents can be grueling. Scheduling holidays exhausting. Restricted court-ordered visitation is the norm, and although adolescents and teens are occasionally allowed input they don’t decide where to spend Christmas. Does this mean two Christmas dinners, perhaps. Will they find it stressful? Many feel torn between two households well into adulthood. Parents have their preference, children have their preference and extended family on both sides are eager to spend time with the children.

If you and your ex-spouse have remained friendly, invite him/her but don’t raise false hopes. Children, especially young children, can become confused. Giving the impression of a family unit can be harmful. Inviting his/her new family members and their children can cause chaos. Custody, visitation and the holiday schedule gives the “best interest of the child” the uppermost priority.  Christmas is a season not just one day. When communicating holiday schedules have full conversations. A sharp “yes” or “no” alone undermines the child’s inquiry. Explain the purpose of the schedule and reinforce the importance of compliance.

Holidays are difficult for newly divorced parents. For divorces finalized early in the year, fall and winter holidays are a long way off. As the season approaches they experience lonesomeness, anxiety and isolation. They may experience nostalgia and wonder why they agreed to a schedule. During visitation, the children may extend an invitation – one he/she is forced to decline. Schedules put into place early in a divorce are important and can be difficult to change. Yet, during this time of year, courts are full of parents attempting to re-negotiate holiday schedules.  Psychologist suggests that the holiday schedule agreed upon when the child was a toddler, might not be ideal for a child of 12 or 13. Start a new tradition, buy new decorations, get the children involved. You’re not a bad mom for denying your Ex at the Christmas table. However, if you give in for the kid’s sake, you are not alone. Researchers found 50% of divorced parents reunite for the holidays.

The holiday schedule is not about you; however, you have the last word. Co-parenting means neither you nor your children will always get what you want. This includes making everyone happy and keeping the peace. Use your resources: Family Law Attorneys, psychologist, family counselors and your extended family. You will survive and your children will have a happy, healthy holiday season.

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