Holidays can be especially hard on both children and parents after a divorce. Both parents, naturally, want to spend time with their children during major holidays, and many families plan family vacations during school breaks. Failing to plan for school breaks, birthdays, and holidays in a parenting plan can lead to stress and costly litigation. A good parenting plan will have a specific schedule for all major holidays, school breaks, and other important days, like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and birthdays. In this article we have included some helpful tips for managing parenting plans and holidays.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s – and Winter Break
The first Thanksgiving and Winter Break after a divorce can be the most stressful time for both parents and children, as the family traditions surrounding those holidays are disrupted. In addition to the normal stress of the divorce itself, children may feel additional stress during the holiday season, especially if their parents are arguing over where they will spend their time.
A good parenting plan will first consider the family’s pre-divorce traditions. Did the family spend Thanksgiving Day at home, or did they travel? Does the family celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah? The parenting plan can be crafted so that these traditions are followed as closely as possible, at least for the first year or two, while the children are still adjusting to the changes in their lives.
Some parents choose to alternate the holiday day itself, while others prefer to make the holiday a multiday event. It is important to think about the children’s ages and family plans when making this kind of schedule.
When crafting a parenting plan for the winter holidays, the children’s school schedule should be considered. Winter break may be split between the parents, or follow the regular parenting schedule, with carve-outs for the holidays. The most important thing is not which arrangement you choose, but that all the details are worked out and agreed upon in writing, to avoid unpleasant surprises and arguments.
No parent wants to miss their child’s birthday. It is important to make sure both the children’s and the parents’ birthdays are included in the plan. The parents should remember that the primary goal is the happiness of the children. While it is aspirational to spend a child’s birthday together, it is important to include a rotation in the parenting plan for the actual birthdays, and for friend and school parties, if this cannot happen.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day
While it seems intuitive that mothers should spend Mother’s Day with their children and fathers spend Father’s Day with them, conflicts may develop when parents are unclear about what they want. Is Father’s Day just that Sunday, or does it start on Saturday night? The scheduling of parenting time on those holidays will also be more complicated in same-sex marriages. For these reasons, the parenting plan should specifically address Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Any holiday in which children are out of school should be addressed in a parenting plan. The regular schedule may result in the children spending a disproportionate number of three-day weekends with one parent and may need to be adjusted for national holidays, such a President’s Day and Labor Day.
Your family may even have a special holiday or tradition that only you celebrate. If so, make sure that day is included in your plan.
One Size Does Not Fit All in Parenting Plans and Holidays
Each family is different. One holiday may be important to one family, or to one parent, and unimportant to another. Seek the advice of an experienced Illinois family law attorney to develop a holiday parenting plan that works for your family.
For more information on this topic or access to additional resources check us out!