While nearly everyone enjoys the holidays, the festivities can also be stressful – especially for divorced parents. The holiday season can appear to them to be a series of tense exchanges about child custody, family traditions, participation in festivities and more.
Michelle Petersen, a Utah mom and blogger recently discussed in an interview the holiday co-parenting strategies that can help divorced parents minimize stress and maximize their kids’ enjoyment of the season.
What is co-parenting?
Co-parenting – also referred to as joint custody – is an arrangement in which both parents actively participate in their children’s daily lives. Co-parenting helps parents and kids retain the close relationships that are so important to the emotional well-being of children.
Co-parenting can be difficult, of course, especially after a difficult divorce.
Petersen said that though her divorce was “really hard” but that once she and her ex-husband took time to put their emotions in perspective, they both realized that “what we care about most is our children.”
Three approaches to holiday co-parenting
Petersen offered a trio of co-parenting approaches:
- Taking turns: alternate which parent gets the kids on specific holidays. For example, dad has the kids on Thanksgiving this year, while mom has them on Christmas. Next year, the holidays are switched.
- Holiday hour division: here, for instance, the mom gets the children during the day on Thanksgiving and dad has them in the evening.
- Togetherness: mom, dad and kids spend the holidays together (Petersen and her ex are exploring modified togetherness on Christmas – she’ll be there when their children open presents, but then leave to allow dad to have the rest of the day with the kids). Of course, togetherness requires both parents to agree beforehand to behave as adults, meaning the holidays are hostility-free.
All of the holiday co-parenting approaches require advance planning and discussion, Petersen said, to help eliminate surprises and reduce stress.