The 2020 holiday season has already thrown many of us for a loop with COVID-19, stay-at-home orders, and remote learning for our little ones. On top of these considerations, many parents are facing the holiday season with a new title: co-parent. If you're dreading the next couple of months, know this: you don't have to feel this way! Some stress is to be expected, but you can minimize it with the help of the following pointers.
- Look back at your child custody agreement. There is a section in North Carolina custody agreements and parenting plans that allows co-parents to lay out how they want to handle the holidays. If you can't remember exactly how you settled that topic, review that section so you're familiar with the arrangement. Perhaps you have the kids both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year due to it being an even-numbered year; maybe you get Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with the kids with a hand-off to the other parent before dinner. If there's ambiguity within the arrangement, be sure to bring that up with the other parent as soon as possible.
- Communicate early and often. Perhaps no other piece of advice is as salient and useful as this one; your parenting plan and relationship with your children's other parent is only as successful as your overall communication. As we just mentioned, you need to let the other parent know if there is any gray area with the custody agreement regarding holidays.
For instance, winter break might not start until right before Christmas if your children's schools missed days for inclement weather or positive COVID cases. If visitation times depend on the length of your children's winter breaks, nail down exactly what the plan is going to be. It also can't hurt to communicate about presents to make sure there's no overlap between the two of you.
- Make reasonable efforts to keep old traditions, but don't be afraid to make new ones. This one is a bit of a balancing act. First, children crave routines and stability. If there is something you've always done as a family on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day, try to see if you can make it work with either you or the other parent. It can be unrealistic, though, to do everything you once did during the holidays now that there are two households to consider. Figure out what's essential, and work from there.
Remember: the holidays are about your children, not for you and your ex to re-litigate old battles. The best reward is seeing their happiness and joy throughout the season. It's not selfish, though, to look after your own mental and emotional health. It's the most wonderful time of the year!
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Change is difficult. We understand the emotions you're feeling if you're even contemplating getting a divorce, let alone going through it. We also know that there are brighter days ahead for you and your children. Let us help you get there.
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