Have you heard the common adage that the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year? For divorced or separated parents, however, the holidays can be a tricky time to navigate. In order to ensure that you and your children are able to enjoy the season, it can be important to come up with a time-sharing schedule that works for everyone, aims for fairness, and keeps the focus on your kids.

One of the most important things you can do in your Parenting Plan may be to come up with a schedule for holiday visitation that allows your kids to spend time with each of their parents and respective extended families, if applicable, while also maintaining the ability of the kids to participate in any activities that are important to them during this time.

Many families choose to alternate holidays. For example, one parent may have Thanksgiving weekend from Wednesday to Sunday, as well as the New Year’s Eve holiday, in even years, while the other parent has Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in addition to the majority of the subsequent winter break. In odd years, they would switch. For families who celebrate only Jewish holidays, each parent might take four nights of Hanukkah annually, and they may instead alternate as to who gets Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

For families where the parents live in close proximity, another option may be to split holidays. On Thanksgiving, one parent may have the children from early dismissal at school Wednesday through the evening on Thursday, celebrating with a meal at lunch time. The other parent may pick up at 5pm to have dinner with the children and enjoy the rest of the weekend or pick them up Friday morning and celebrate two days in a row. For Christmas, one parent may have Christmas Eve until 9AM on Christmas Day, while the other parent gets the rest of the day.

No matter what type of holiday schedule you agree on with your co-parent, it can be critical to keep the focus on your kids. At some point, what worked for them when they were young may not be feasible as they get older and have friends and other commitments that keep them busy during the holiday season. If one parent lives far away and is used to having the entire winter break with their kids as a portion of their parenting time, it might be wise to consider having them come to where the kids primarily live rather than requiring them to fly for an extended visit. If the kids are happy and full of joy, that is what matters most.

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