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10 Tips on Creating a Holiday Custody Schedule For Your Children

Updated on March 14, 2012

Perhaps your holidays include ice skating during winter break, barbecuing for a summer celebration or gathering around the table for a traditional feast. Whatever it is, celebrating holidays with your children is probably among your most favorite times. When you are a divorced parent, those special times will have to change to accommodate a holiday custody schedule.

Holiday stress can intensify when you are a divorced parent trying to juggle your children’s holiday custody schedule.
Holiday stress can intensify when you are a divorced parent trying to juggle your children’s holiday custody schedule. | Source

Creating the Schedule

During divorce proceedings, the family court wants to see a custody schedule that allows age-appropriate visitations with the non-custodial parent. A day-to-day schedule is hard enough to create, but when you must make a holiday custody schedule in your parenting plan, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Here are 10 tips you can use to minimize the stress of negotiating a holiday schedule and maximize the impact so you, the other parent and your children can enjoy your time together.

  1. Put the children first. In other words, your desires and those of the other parent are secondary to what is in the children’s best interests. Whenever you and the other parent come to a point where you don’t agree, ask yourselves what is best for the children. You might be surprised how many differences can be resolved when you provide an honest answer.
  2. Stay on task. In your negotiations, focus on creating a holiday schedule that works for everyone, not bringing up the past problems in your marriage. If the other parent’s focus starts to wander into hostile territory, steer the conversation back to the holiday schedule. If you are tempted to make comments about the other parent, suppress them and only say relevant things.
  3. Learn to negotiate. The negotiation tactics used in business meetings can also help you negotiate a holiday custody schedule. Read up on the basics before you attend your first meeting. You can learn winning techniques such as stating your needs, preparing several options beforehand, picking your battles and knowing when to compromise.
  4. Gather information beforehand. Assemble all the information you will need concerning the holidays. While you may already know when big holidays such as Thanksgiving take place, you’ll also need to know every 3-day weekend, school break and so forth in order to create an accurate calendar. Contact your children’s school to learn of all the school days off during the year.
  5. Determine when holidays begin and end. Establishing set times for the holidays will help you determine how to divide the time up. For example, will the Thanksgiving holiday consist of just Thursday, Thursday and Friday, or the whole weekend as well? Remember, most schools and companies provide a Friday or Monday when there is a weekend holiday. Have an accurate idea of what days you are actually discussing.
  6. Honor family traditions, if possible. Work around any traditions your children enjoy so they can continue to celebrate in the manner they are accustomed to. For example, if your family always went to the nearby amusement park during the first day of spring break, plan for that. While you won’t be able to preserve every tradition, keeping the important ones alive will help your children transition to the new schedule.
  7. Set exact pick-up and drop-off times. Avoid using vague terms such as “in the afternoon” or “on Sunday” when setting up transition times. Being precise leaves no room for miscommunication, and allows you and the other parent to make plans for the holidays. Because miscommunications generally lead to conflict, it’s better for everyone to indicate exactly what time the children need to be someplace.
  8. Discuss transportation. You’ll discuss transportation of your children when you create your parenting plan, so continue it when it’s time to talk about holidays. Many parents agree that whoever has the children currently is responsible for transportation. For example, if the children are visiting Dad for the day, Mom drives them over to his residence, and then he drives them back to hers at the end of the day. Whatever you decide, be clear for every holiday.
  9. Make an easy-to-read calendar. Younger children don’t have a well-developed sense of time and it may be confusing for them to understand how the holiday visitation will be. Using a color-coded calendar, you can outline where the children will be on which days. It also helps you and the other parent clearly understand the schedule. Use software such as Custody X Change to make calendars to print out or upload to your mobile devices.
  10. Set up a time for review. At some point in the future, you and the other parent should review how the holiday custody schedule is going and whether any changes need to be made. This can be a yearly thing, or at major milestones such as when your toddler starts school full time. Knowing there is a time and place for revisions allows for changes to the holiday schedule as your lives change.

Maximize the Benefits

A detailed, thoughtful holiday custody schedule can make all the difference between enjoying holidays and dreading them.

When you and you’re the other parent are working together to give your children positive holiday experiences, they will thrive on the peace and stability. This kind of cooperation makes a difference in how your children experience the holidays.

Using your holiday custody schedule lets you both remain relaxed and confident that neither of you got the short end of the holiday visitations.


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