As the holidays approach, your stress may be increasing due to an uptick in activities, including parties, shopping and family dinners. As a single parent, this can be even more overwhelming. One way to reduce stress during the holidays is to have an effective parenting plan in place.
A structured parenting plan will not only relieve tension for you, but it will alleviate any stress your child may be experiencing as well. Regardless of the state of your and your ex-spouse's relationship, this is the time of year to put your children first so that they can have happy memories of the season.
Alternating holidays is a common strategy for many divorced or separated parents. Typically, your children will alternate between the two of you on an annual basis. For example, this year, you may have your children for Thanksgiving and then they spend Christmas with your ex-spouse. Next year, it would be the opposite.
This method can sometimes be difficult on a parent, especially the parent who has physical custody (where the child lives). If you choose to alternate holidays, plan ahead for the absence of your child. Spending time with friends or extended family can provide a diversion to take your mind off not being able to spend the holiday with your child.
Some parents split the hours of each day so that each can spend time with the child on each holiday. This is an option if you and your former spouse live relatively close to each other. The drawback of this method is that it can be stressful on the child. Bouncing back and forth during the day can be hectic, especially on younger children. This method may be reasonable if your children are older and can provide input for scheduling or even provide their own transportation.
Spending the holidays together
If you and your ex-spouse are on good terms and it does not increase conflict, you may consider spending the holidays together. This would alleviate the stress on the children of traveling between the two families. However, this works only if you and your spouse are highly cooperative and have a strong relationship when it comes to co-parenting your children.
While it is good to have an effective parenting plan in place for the holidays, it is also advisable to maintain a level of flexibility. You or your ex-spouse may have to do last-minute shopping or planning, requiring an unexpected custody exchange. During this time, it is important for both of you to remain flexible and understanding to better care for your children.
If you are divorced or separated and have a child, it is important to understand your rights and options. For advice on handling child custody arrangements, contact an attorney experienced in family law.