When parents are separated or divorced, one of the most significant points of contention is often where the children will spend the holidays each year. Holidays are often family-centered events where many traditions are honored and memories are made. While all holidays are important, some require more discussions and planning about where the children will be than others. These are usually birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah. The lack of agreement can add an additional layer of stress to already stress-filled days. Here are a few tips to make the holidays as stress-free as possible.

Stay Child Focused

When dealing with a person you have had previous conflicts with, it is easy to allow your emotions to get the best of you. External stimuli drive emotional decisions. External stimuli are often remembering something the other parent had done or said. You then begin to reflect on your positive or negative feelings about the experience, which often drives your decisions.

Remain child-focused by concentrating on what would really be in your child's best interest that can include both sides of the family. Are there important social events being held by your ex's family that the child would enjoy being a part of? Would they be able to see grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins that they do not readily see on one day versus another? 

If your child is old enough, ask them their opinion on the best way to split up the holidays. Remember, Christmas does not only have to be held on December 25th; a child can have more than one birthday celebration, and Hanukkah has enough days to split. Please do not force them to choose one parent over the other. 

Respect Their Right To Have A Healthy Relationship With Their Other Parent

Too often, holiday decisions become a tug of war between two adults, and the child is in the middle. Unless deemed unsafe by the courts, your child has a right to have a healthy relationship with their other parent. Unfortunately, their relationship is often heavily influenced by the custodial parent's views. 

Refrain from making negative remarks about the other person even outside your child's presence. You would be surprised what they hear when you think they are not listening. 

Practice respectful communication with your ex. Remember, each of you no longer has the right to know certain things about each other's lives if it does not have a direct impact on your child. This information includes who they are dating or having to share who you are dating. 

Use Your Court Order As Your Guide

Do not dwell on the issues that have already worked out in court between your child custody lawyers. You have probably already spent a lot of time and money working out custody and visitation. You may even have stipulations in your order pertaining to the holidays. But even with a signed court order, you must be willing to be flexible. 

Visitation arrangements are subject to change. Many things can influence or change a parent's availability over time. Some of these include moves, job changes, changes in income, changes in health, and more. 

Changes in visitation can simply be handled by writing up the changes and both of you signing off acknowledging your agreement. If you cannot agree, the holiday arrangements may require a visit to your child custody lawyer to place your case back in front of the court. 

Don't make a judge decide where your child will spend the holidays and then have to make your child abide by the court's orders. Take the time and work your holiday visitation out as a family. If you struggle to work out child custody issues with your ex, reach out to a child custody lawyer