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November means the start of the holidays is just a few short weeks away. Whether you and your family celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s or more, the holidays are a time of sentiment and tradition, typically spent with your loved ones.

For families with divorced or separated parents, the holidays can be challenging. Discussing holiday plans early can help avoid confusion and address potential issues.

The benefits of a planned holiday schedule

A planned holiday schedule can help everyone adjust to life following a divorce or separation. While some families may already have a planned holiday schedule even prior to a divorce or separation, many do not.

In Pennsylvania, when child custody is disputed or parents cannot agree, a parenting plan is created to, among other things, establish a schedule for holidays throughout the year. This typically alternates the years children spend with each parent or establishes a consistent schedule for each year.

How to prepare for co-parenting over the holidays

Whether you have a parenting plan in place or not, forward thinking can go a long way in preparing for the holidays. Here are several ideas for how to plan ahead:

  • Review your parenting plan. Determine the plans for this year, especially if you alternate years for holidays with your children’s other parent.
  • Confirm plans. Plans can change, even with a parenting plan in place. Confirming the schedule ahead of time can prevent last-minute changes.
  • Address any substantial changes. If you are contemplating adjusting your holidays plans, including going out of town, communicate this to your children’s other parent, especially if it has the potential to affect their plans.
  • Discuss the schedule with your children. Communicating holiday plans early with your children can avoid uncertainty and contribute to maintaining a stable schedule for them.

It is important to remember that if you have a parenting plan in place, that agreement likely states the terms to making changes that stray from your plan. Many plans will state that if both parents cannot agree, the parent receiving the request makes the final decision. Confirm the process to avoid violating your agreed-upon terms.

Co-parenting during the holidays certainly has its challenges. However, by thinking ahead and committing to making the holidays special for your children no matter what, you can begin to establish new family traditions.