The holidays can be difficult, even in the best of times. Co-parenting can be particularly trying. Conflicts commonly arise related to when and how the children will spend their holiday time. In ordinary times, a good parenting plan is designed to mitigate these conflicts. However, a good parenting plan likely has not anticipated parenting during a pandemic such as COVID-19. Co-parenting through the 2020 holiday season is new for all of us!
Some basic tips to follow (in and outside a pandemic) are:
- Be respectful of the concerns of each party (including the children);
- Focus on maintaining as many family traditions as possible;
- Keep co-parenting disagreement discussions away from the children;
- Avoid sharing surprising news during holiday events (such as introducing a new significant other);
- Accommodate your children in choosing a nice holiday card and/or gift for their other parent;
- Consider coordinating on large gift with your co-parent instead of competing against each other.
Check your Parenting Plan
Your parenting plan will provide some great guidance on what you both agreed to regarding new holiday traditions. Make sure to consult your parenting plan first, and only make necessary changes based on the new circumstances. Use the following process to focus your discussion on a workable, win/win resolution you can both agree to:
Focus on agreement and solutions!
- Each parent individually:
- Review your existing parenting plan;
- Make a list of items you wish to discuss with two to three acceptable solutions;
- Parents together:
- Share a list of items you wish to discuss (you may choose to include your acceptable solution list as well);
- Be prepared to discuss all items listed by your co-parent, even if you don’t feel a change is necessary;
- Schedule a time to discuss solutions (via video, phone, in-person, email, etc).
- Make sure agreements are made in writing (if parenting plan changes are anticipated to be permanent, file an amended parenting plan with the court).
- Refrain from arguing about holiday plan details while the children are present.
COVID-19 and Holiday Plans for Divorced Parents
Even married parents often hold different views on how best to navigate social gatherings. Co-parents should expect to communicate their expectations regarding socializing during the 2020 holidays. When your communication is focused on a respectful discussion of what precautions are necessary to help you both be comfortable with the holiday arrangements, peaceful resolution is possible. Common issues to consider when making your 2020 holiday plans are:
- Are you in agreement on mask-wearing and social distancing? If not, can you commit to upholding the other parent’s desires while the children are with you?
- Will holiday travel take the children to an area with different recommendations than where you currently live? If so, how will you manage those differences?
- Will the gathering group sizes be within the suggested CDC social gathering limits? If not, how will you handle it?
If parents communicate with each other with a respectful and honest desire to understand the other point-of-view (as they practiced during their mediation or a collaborative divorce) win/win solutions are possible. If these changes are anticipated to carry through in the coming years, it is best to file a written agreement with the court (reach out to your original mediator/attorney or Family Peacemaker for assistance).
All Holiday Plans Should be Made in the Best Interest of the Children
Children’s’ best interest is the driver in any parenting plan. And although communication in co-parenting is not always easy, it goes without saying that it is always the key. This means you both agree, “I want you to know this is what we are planning so there are no surprises.”
Once agreements are made, include the children in the good news of how happy you both are that the holiday plans are set. Be prepared to positively discuss changes to holiday traditions and the reasons behind the changes.
For assistance in resolving potential issues over holiday plans in this time of COVID-19, contact us at Family Peacemaker. We are here to help you design or revise your holiday parenting plan in a way that will minimize conflict and maximize peace and joy!