As a child of divorced parents, I remember my mom and dad arguing every holiday season over how they will make their work schedules fit in with who gets us kids on which holidays. My dad, a doctor, was often on call so keeping set days was tricky and, the negotiations often got ugly.
Today, my guest blogger, Barry Finkel who shares his wisdom on how to keep family peace during the holiday season. Barry is the founding partner of The Law Firm of Barry I. Finkel P.A., a divorce and family law practice in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, focused on serving the needs of the entire family. .
By now, you should know which vacation days you will be able to use or which days your workplace will be closed. If you or your former spouse need to switch or negotiate remember civility: "The key question is 'Do I love my child more than I hate my ex?'"
Barry says: "The most important thing to keep in mind is the best interests of your child. A lot of times divorce is highly emotional, and the vision of what is really important gets cloudy."
While he acknowledges that last minute issues arise, here is his advice for how to balance work, kids and divorce during the holiday season:
The holidays are upon us. Even for families of divorce dealing with time sharing and child custody arrangements, this can be a season of joy. With some advance planning, cooperation and flexibility, the children can enjoy quality holiday time with both parents.
It’s important that the divorce settlement’s child custody or time sharing arrangement be flexible enough to reflect and respect the family’s new reality. Assuming that’s the case, the following tips can help ensure everyone enjoys the holiday season together:
- Focus on the kids. With all the following suggestions, keep the kids’ needs and emotions foremost in mind when making any changes to the time-sharing agreement. If issues or conflict arise, step back and seek compromise.
- Plan ahead. As much as possible, parents should plan their holiday festivities around the existing time-sharing schedule. The normalcy and regularity of the existing schedule provides stability – especially for younger children.
- Divide the day. If the families traditionally celebrate Christmas day, split the day in half, with one parent getting Christmas morning one year, and afternoon / evening the next. The same should be applied for New Years. Same goes for other holidays, like Hanukkah. With eight days, families have eight opportunities to celebrate.
- Share the celebration. If the family historically has shared a holiday dinner, gift exchange or other ritual the kids have come to expect, continue the practice – assuming the parents can get along.
- Meet the needs of out-of-town family. Grandparents and other family members have no inherent rights regarding time-sharing. If extended family has flown in for the holidays, however, parents should agree to relax time-sharing.
- Get away. Whether through the timesharing terms or mutual agreement, it’s permissible for one parent to travel during the holidays without the children. If this is the first special holiday you will be alone, don’t put a guilt trip on your child. Get out with friends, or volunteer at a hospital or food bank.
- Always keep the children’s needs and expectations in mind. Observing or maintaining past traditions provides stability to the kids. Limit shuttling from one parent’s home to the other’s. Be flexible. Have fun.