Co-Parenting During the Holidays
By: Sarah Peel, Associate Lawyer
For many newly separated parents co-parenting is a difficult task throughout the year but can be especially challenging around the holidays. While we often think of holidays as fun and relaxing, it can be a stressful time of year for those managing situations around custody and access. It can be especially difficult to co-parent effectively around the holidays as parents attempt to juggle a host of responsibilities including office parties, family gatherings, and their children’s extracurriculars, as well as special periods of access and all the emotions that come along with new traditions. This year, these difficulties are further compounded by concerns around the Covid-19 pandemic.
While this time of year can be rife with conflict for co-parents, a little bit of forward-thinking and considerate communication can go a long way to minimizing stress and maximizing holiday cheer for you and your children.
First off, you will want to determine a realistic access schedule for your family. This can take a variety of forms and is really dependant on what makes sense for your family. Some things to consider may include:
Is this your first major holiday separated? How are your kids reacting? Do they need extra support from both parents this year?
How old are your children?
What traditions have you had in the past?
Does it make sense to consider doing any of these things together with your children?
Are there new traditions you want to start?
Are there other family members your children normally see during the holidays?
You may also want to discuss how or if you will purchase gifts for your children. Remember, you are both operating separate households now – likely without any change to your respective incomes – so this may mean your budgets are somewhat tighter than in past years. If this is the case, you might consider pooling your resources and selecting a gift together or placing a reasonable cap on your respective purchases for your children.
Your children may also want to purchase gifts for their other parent. It is in your children’s best interest to encourage this.
This year, there is a great deal of uncertainty around what restrictions will be in place over the holidays which of course compounds the stress of holiday co-parenting. This makes it especially important to conduct your co-parenting with as much flexibility as is possible and reasonable in your situation.
Whatever you decide, remember it must make sense for your family. Every family is different. What works for your neighbour down the street may not work for you. Things like the age of your children, your past traditions, and your ability to communicate with your ex-partner will all impact and inform what is reasonable for your family dynamic.
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