It’s that time of the year when families gather to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or even Festivus. However, it’s not always the happiest of time for everyone. This time of the year, tensions often arise when there are children of a divorce or unmarried couple involved. As the holidays are a time for families, every parent wants to be with their children on the holidays. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way.
The best piece of advice anyone can give a parent worried about their rights during the holidays is to plan ahead. If you are able to work out a plan or custodial visitation for the holidays, it is always encouraged to get it in writing. Relying on an oral agreement from your ex is never the best idea. As they always say, an oral agreement is as good as the paper that it’s written on. (aka, yeah… don’t do it!!)
When you are able to get it in writing, some parenting plans and visitation schedules provide for alternating holidays year by year. For example, one parent may have the children for Thanksgiving, but not Christmas. However, the following year, that parent would have the children for Christmas, but not Thanksgiving. Another option, which I often proffer to my clients, is that the holidays are split. For example, one parent has the children Christmas Eve from 6 p.m. until noon on Christmas Day when the other parent picks the children up at noon and retains custody until the following day at 6 p.m., when the normal schedule goes back into play. Either way, many different options exist.
Problems often arise when there is no Order of the Court or an agreed upon parenting plan. In such instances, the parent who has been exercising custody on a full time basis doesn’t want to give up the kids for any holiday. This is especially true when parents are at odds with each other. Unfortunately, without an agreement or court order, not much can be done so close to the holidays. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to give up all hope. If you are unable to secure a visitation schedule, be sure to call your children to wish them a happy holiday. This shows your children that you care and let’s them know that you would love to be with them to celebrate.
In difficult times such as these, just remember that it’s not all about you, but rather it’s about the children. Remember to focus on the feelings of your children, not your own. Your own feelings of guilt, loneliness, or anger should never be forced upon your children. If you are with your children, be sure to relax and have a meaningful time with your children. Also, be the “bigger” parent and encourage your children to contact the other parent to wish them a happy holiday. If you are not with your children, spend the holidays with friends and family and focus on all of the other relationships, values, and traditions that are important to you during the holidays. The holidays can be rough, but with the proper mindset, can still be enjoyed.