When we think of the holidays, we think of happiness and being surrounded by our loved ones. However, it can present a unique set of challenges for divorced – or divorcing – parents.
Whether this is your first holiday season post-divorce, amid a divorce, or you’re a seasoned co-parent, effective preparation and clear communication are crucial for a fulfilling holiday experience for your children.
Given that a divorce occurs approximately every 36 seconds somewhere in the United States, the importance of finding peaceful ways to co-parent cannot be more important. In this blog, we aim to provide practical tips and insights to help provide a peaceful holiday for you and your children. Here’s what you need to know.
Understanding Parental Responsibilities
It’s important to know that “custody” is no longer used. It is now called “parental responsibilities.” This includes two main things: parenting time (formerly “visitation”) and the power to make decisions for children. Parenting time is a schedule that shows when each parent spends time with the children. This schedule is created and approved by a judge in family court. If the parents can’t agree on the schedule, the judge will decide what’s best for the child and assign a schedule for the parents.
Parental responsibilities refer to the decision-making responsibilities that each parent will have on behalf of the child. Parents can agree to make these decisions together or divide them into categories, which should cover the following:
- Extracurricular Activities
If the parents can’t agree on who gets what responsibility, the Illinois family court judge will allocate those responsibilities among them. Let’s dive into some tips that will help you make co-parenting easier this holiday season.
1. Review and Update Your Co-Parenting Plan
During the emotional and often stressful period of divorce, having a clear co-parenting plan can provide stability and predictability for both you and your children. This plan should outline how you and your ex-spouse will share responsibilities and make decisions regarding your children. If you’re unsure about how to create or modify your co-parenting plan, seeking the assistance of a family law attorney can be incredibly valuable.
A family law attorney can offer guidance and legal advice to help you develop a plan that provides clarity and structure throughout the holiday season. With a clear plan, you can aim for holiday celebrations filled with warmth, understanding, and the season’s magic.
2. Prioritize Communication and Planning
Children flourish when they have stability. To create a harmonious holiday season, it’s vital to present a united front and communicate holiday plans clearly and calmly. Share your holiday plans, including travel details, accommodations, and emergency contacts. Stay updated on any changes or delays affecting the agreed schedule. Keeping the lines of communication open promotes transparency. By communicating effectively, co-parents can build trust between one another. This partnership can help reassure children that the holidays can still be joyful and celebratory despite changes in the family dynamic.
3. Be Flexible and Willing to Compromise
The holiday season is often unpredictable, and flexibility can be your greatest asset. While it’s important to stick to your parenting plan as much as possible, be prepared to make minor adjustments as needed. This could mean being flexible with pick-up and drop-off times or accommodating last-minute changes. The goal is to prioritize your children’s happiness and well-being, even if it means making concessions.
4. Establish and Maintain Traditions
Maintaining holiday traditions can provide a sense of continuity and comfort for children post-divorce. Work with your ex-spouse to determine which traditions to maintain and explore opportunities to establish new ones. Involving your children in this decision-making process can enhance their sense of inclusion and security. Here are some creative approaches to traditional celebrations:
- Go out to eat instead of cooking.
- Have a holiday picnic in a new part of the house.
- Eat dinner while watching holiday movies.
- Buy new holiday decorations.
- Spend time with extended family.
- Change your gift-giving routine.
5. Prioritize Your Children’s Needs
Parents, caregivers, and educators play a crucial role in helping children cope emotionally during and after a divorce. Studies show that children often encounter significant difficulties in these times, especially in the first year or two after the divorce. It’s essential to understand that each child is different, and what’s a big deal for one child might not be as important to another.
Pay attention to their feelings and needs, and be supportive if they struggle with the changes. Involve your child in the decision-making process where appropriate, giving them a sense of ownership and excitement about the holidays. Remember, the goal is to create lasting memories and positive experiences for your child. Lastly, try to keep negative feelings about your ex-spouse to yourself and maintain a positive attitude when discussing holiday plans.
How Masters Law Group Can Help
The holidays can be emotionally taxing, especially after a recent divorce or separation, which can intensify these emotions. It’s important to prioritize self-care to be the best parent you can be. Your family’s well-being is paramount, so don’t let the emotional strain of a custody case weigh you down.
At Masters Law Group, our family law attorneys focus on helping clients assert their rights to further the best interests of their children. Attorney Erin E. Masters is a court-appointed Child Representative with experience advocating for children in these high-conflict matters. Attorney Anthony G. Joseph is an approved Guardian Ad Litem/Child Representatives list for the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
With a strong focus on assisting clients in Chicago and Chicago’s Western Suburbs (Elmhurst, Hinsdale, DuPage, Oakbrook), we offer various services to help parents, children, and families through difficult times like Divorce, Parenting Time, and Allocation of Parental Responsibilities.
If you require legal assistance, contact a member of our legal team today. Our attorneys will work with you to develop an appropriate action plan for your unique needs and goals. We will work diligently on your behalf and provide regular updates.