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The coParenting Holiday Custody Schedule

Child-centric coParenting holiday schedules often involve both a short-term schedule for the first 2 – 4 years of two-home family life that easily convert to long-term schedules that allow each parent the opportunity to travel and allows kids to settle.

Karen Bonnell
Karen is a coach that has over 25 years of experience working with individuals, couples, and families facing transition, loss, stress, and change.

(3 minutes 13 seconds read)

We want to talk a little bit about children and “Custody”.  As child-centric coParents and allies, we need to shift the language from “Custody” to residential schedules or simply coParenting schedules.  Children aren’t in CUSTODY! That’s old litigation language that implies ownership and prison more than the beautiful act of spending time with your kid(s).  Okay now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Can’t imagine a holiday season without your kids? You’re not alone!

In the early months and years of separation and divorce, there’s so much loss and change, most parents put their foot down in a few precious places, like birthdays and holidays. Similarly, children are also reeling from the changes and do their own clinging to the familiar. Wise coParents create schedules that allow kid time with each other in some fashion on special days, particularly during those first 2 – 4 years of adjustment.

These short-term coParenting schedules can include agreements about welcoming the non-holiday parent to spend time with the children as they open their Santa gifts at the holiday parent’s home. Other parents divide each holiday to ensure that they both have a special experience with the children such as rotating who has first-night seder and who has second night each year.

However, holiday schedules that slice holiday time often results in delaying post-divorce adjustment and disrupting two-home family life. Here’s why:

    • New Possibilities for You: Once the loss and grief that once impacted each day relents and the family begins to normalize with a sense of ease in sharing children across two homes. This new normal opens up possibilities that either you wouldn’t have considered before or simply didn’t exist. If you were going to travel to see your family for a holiday, you all went together – you couldn’t imagine going alone. After a few years of recovery, you’re ready to make that trip by yourself or with the kids! But not if your holiday schedule dictates that the children have to be in town for a tight transition to their other parent for holiday time.  
    • New Stepfamily Members: Another important reality involves how the family will expand and likely include new members in the form of step relationships. These new circumstances require coParenting schedules that open the way for more flexibility and healthy autonomy for adults and settling in and calm for kids! Your new beloved’s family spends New Year’s Eve every year at a cabin in the woods – you’d love to take your kids to join in the fun – but not if your co-parenting holiday custody schedule defines a transition to your child’s other parent.  
  • Allowing Kids to Settle: When children are faced with a transition during their holiday celebrations long-term, they find they’re neither fish nor fowl. Holidays begin to involve leaving one celebration in the middle to transition to another that is already underway. Rather than relaxing into the full arc of how we celebrate Thanksgiving break with one parent one year and the other parent the next year, children face the stress of holidays that many of us adults feel when we have to not only see our own parents but make an appearance at the in-laws as well!!

Child-centric coParenting holiday schedules often involve both a short-term schedule for the first 2 – 4 years of two-home family life that easily convert to long-term schedules that allow each parent the opportunity to travel and allows kids to settle. This is not to say that parents don’t continue to invite each other to join in holiday activities or follow their short-term schedules when that makes sense. They do!! And, it’s by choice, not by stipulation in a parenting plan.

Skillful coParents find their way to keep kids central without stretching them across the middle and without conflict. We hope these ideas help you to be the most skillful coParents you can be.