In our last blog post, we covered the ins and outs of helping you and your children start the school year off right. In addition to school starting, the fall also kicks off a series of holidays that typically bring fun and excitement for many families. However, these holidays can present feelings of stress and frustration for parents who are separated or divorced—especially if the separation or divorce is fairly recent.

One of the best ways to avoid confusion and help ensure everyone enjoys the holidays is to include a schedule of holidays in your parenting plan. Clearly define each holiday or special occasion with specific details—such as dates, times, and how children will spend time with each parent during these periods. Not only will this alleviate stress for you, but your children will also appreciate knowing how and where they’ll be spending the upcoming holidays.

Most parents share equal time with their children during holidays, school breaks, birthdays, vacations, and other special occasions. It’s also common to alternate holidays every other year. For example, one parent will spend Thanksgiving with the kids during odd-numbered years and the other parent will get Thanksgiving during the even-numbered years. Another option is to split a holiday in half so your children spend part of the day with you and the other part with your ex-spouse.

Holidays and special occasions that may be included in a parenting plan are:

  • Child’s Birthday
  • Christmas Day
  • Christmas Eve
  • Easter
  • Fall Break
  • Father’s Day
  • Halloween
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Mother’s Day
  • New Year’s Day
  • New Year’s Eve
  • Parent’s Birthday
  • Religious Holidays
  • Spring Break
  • Summer Vacation
  • Thanksgiving
  • Winter Break

Don’t wait until the last minute to read your parenting plan to figure out the holidays—especially if you’re recently separated or divorced and not familiar with the holiday schedule in your parenting plan. You may be planning a trip or have a special request that falls outside your plan, so it’s best to ask your lawyer questions or request changes as early as possible.

As your children grow older, you’ll need to work with your ex-spouse to update and revise your shared parenting plan. This includes updating holiday visitation schedules, which may be affected by new events that didn’t exist when the parenting plan was first drafted, such as your children’s extracurricular activities. When your children are mature enough to participate, include them in the process. Don’t forget, as your children become older, they may want to spend time with their friends during vacations and holidays. Consider their needs and wants as well as your own to figure out what works best for everyone.

Determining these details now will help minimize stress and ensure both you and your children have time to enjoy together while creating new traditions and happy memories for years to come.