The Holidays are Coming

November 17th


The holiday season can be stressful for parents and children alike. A little planning can go a long way toward minimizing conflict and maximizing merriment during this busy time.
Still trying to figure out where to begin? Koh-Parenting’s got you covered!

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you a series of holiday-themed newsletters with something for everyone. Whether you’re a newbie co-parent heading into your first holiday, or a veteran with several under your belt, we have some useful tips and tricks for you. In this article, we’ll share planning ideas to start your holidays on the right foot.

Interested in how to to self reflect prior to the holidays?

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The Gist

Each year, retailers begin promoting the holiday season earlier and earlier, bringing it to the storefronts and the forefronts of our minds ever sooner. Whether you adore or abhor this part of the year, this tactic of preparation can help you stay ahead of the holiday co-parenting game. The hustle and bustle of the holidays disrupts routines and affects attitudes and behaviors, especially for co-parenting households, who must often juggle more transitions back and forth between families. Heading into this time with a solid plan can help you to enjoy the positives and avoid the potential pitfalls it brings.

You can prepare yourself by taking care of your physical and mental health, mapping out the big picture for the weeks ahead, and prioritizing events and activities most important to you and your child. Communicate your vision early and often with your parenting partner, and come to the table willing to compromise and think creatively. Once you have devised a plan that meets everyone’s needs, work together to share this in advance with extended family and friends so that they know what to expect. Then, work as a team (whenever possible) to prepare your child by reviewing the plan. Consider creating a visual schedule or chart to aid in their understanding, and find ways to give him/her a voice. Children’s ability to make final decisions regarding their holiday time may be limited, but giving them opportunities to make choices when possible and allowing them space to vent their feelings can help them regain a sense of control.

Three kids role-playing as superheroes


Why does holiday planning Matter in Co-Parenting?

Holidays can be triggering for many reasons. They may evoke unresolved memories from years past or bring up feelings of loss and nostalgia for what was (or could have been). Events and social gatherings may change our routines, leading to little downtime, overstimulation, and often inadequate sleep and nutrition.

Need a holiday schedule to help you plan?

Click here for our template!

These challenges can be incredibly impactful for co-parents juggling adjustments to their new family dynamic and custody arrangement. This increased level of stress has the potential to keep us from functioning at our best, leaving us vulnerable to falling back into negative habits or behaviors. However, creating plans for such chaotic times can add back the structure we need to keep ourselves, our routines, and our family under control. Continue reading for tips for you, your co-parent, and your family. Note: If you and your co-parent have legal obligations set up through the court, it is important to follow those plans to avoid any legal issues.

Preparing yourself:

  • Start with a full tank. It may seem like a luxury at such a busy time of year to concern yourself with self-care. But you can’t attend to your family’s needs or be your best self if you’re operating on empty! Check in with your body and give it the gentle nutrition and rest it needs. Make a point to pencil in activities that nourish your soul- exercise, alone time, social time with friends, and reach out to your natural and professional supports (including therapy) to nurture your mental health.
  • Refer to your custody agreement. In most cases, it will spell out the distribution of holiday time. Does this meet your needs? Does it need to be revisited? Consult with professionals as appropriate to determine the next steps.
  • Map it all out. Having a visual of your schedule over the coming weeks, including visitation, events, and tasks, can give you perspective. Note periods that may be more difficult or require more effort and pre-planning. Prioritize where you can, learning the power of “no” and preserving what’s most important to you and your child.

Preparing your co-parent:

  • Communicate. Start the conversation about holiday plans early with your co-parent, and check in frequently. If you operate with a pre-planned custody/visitation schedule, it’s important not to make assumptions about your needs and expectations, as these can be different during the holidays.
  • Be prepared to compromise. You both might require additional flexibility and willingness to meet in the middle. If you can empathize with your partner’s feelings during this often emotional time, then your partner may be more likely to respect your viewpoint as well, and you may come to an agreement more quickly.
  • Get creative. The nature of co-parenting in separate households means that it’s unlikely that either parent will get 100% access to their child throughout the season. However, you can and SHOULD brainstorm ways to stay connected to your child while apart and make a point to pencil them into your schedule. For example, if you won’t be able to see your child for the entirety of a special occasion, work with the other parent and pick a mutually convenient time for a video chat, virtual “movie date,” or something similar.
  • Review, Revisit, Repeat. Once you have drafted your plan for the holidays, review it (together if possible). Minor things could become major annoyances if you haven’t clarified them beforehand, so make sure you spell everything out in as much detail as possible. Be prepared with backup plans in case of last-minute changes (such as inclement weather and illnesses).

Preparing your child:

  • Show a united front. If you and your parenting partner have reached a point where you can meet calmly and comfortably, then consider scheduling a time to sit together (or video chat) with your child to review the plan. If you and your parenting partner cannot meet face-to-face, consider syncing your messaging so your child hears the same explanation and rationale for your decisions.
  • Make the plan interactive. A picture schedule or visual can be powerful in reinforcing information and helping your child to learn. Also, because kids typically don’t get a say in where they’ll be during the holidays, it can help them regain control and increase their buy-in if you allow them to make choices where possible. For example, let them pick the gift for a family gift exchange, choose an outfit to wear for an event, or select an activity they’d like to do during their visit with each parent.
  • Validate their feelings. Kids feel the weight of holiday stress in any circumstance, and even more during the shift between households, parents, and families. Your holiday plan may also deviate from the routine or change long-standing, beloved holiday traditions. Witnessing your child’s upset about these changes is hard, and your natural inclination may be to “happy him/her up” as quickly as possible (perhaps with material distractions, conciliatory promises, or even by shutting down expressions of feeling). Try to resist this urge and instead sit with your child, talking through these uncomfortable emotions and offering reassurance that it’s ok to have them. This approach shows them that you understand them and are there to work through anything, good or bad, together, establishing the trust and safety they need to confide in you in the future. In this way, a potentially challenging situation becomes a learning experience in handling disappointment or sadness.
  • Highlight the positive. Making room for all the feelings doesn’t mean you have to linger in negativity. Find silver linings in the holiday plan and emphasize those when presenting them to your child. For example, rather than stating, “You won’t get to see your cousins this year,” you could say, “This year, you’ll get to see grandma and grandpa’s new house!” Whatever you focus on, you get more of it, so if you model this positivity with your child, they may mimic this outlook, and it can improve their mood.
  • Give support. Your child may need extra support during the holidays. Be prepared to seek help from family, friends, and professionals as needed.

Preparing your family:

  • Share your plan in advance. In many cultures, the holidays often involve formal, informal, and/or religious traditions and rituals with extended family. You can expect that your holiday plans may impact your relatives and that they may have reactions, positive or negative or both, to any changes from the norm. Allot time for these conversations before the holiday so that these emotions don’t spill over into the actual celebrations themselves.
  • Set clear boundaries. Allowing your family members time and space to respond to and process your holiday plan acknowledges the importance of their role and respects their feelings. However, this does NOT require you to adjust your final plan based upon their feedback. Define boundaries by stating: (1) your intent for bringing up the subject clearly and honestly, and (2) your expectations from them. For example, “We wanted to share our holiday plans with you. We gave it a lot of thought and this is what we will be doing. We thank you for respecting our decision, we feel it’s the best for us and our child. This may help to intercept unwanted suggestions or protestations.

The Holidays are coming!
We are here to help

We know that co-parenting during the holidays can bring mixed emotions and challenges. We hope this guide helps you feel confident and prepared for this holiday season of co-parenting. Stay tuned for more holiday posts in the coming weeks.

By Koh-Parenting Services LLC

One Comment

  1. […] challenging to you, don’t fret! Our previous posts and learning guide can make it easy! Check out The Holidays Are Coming, Setting Holiday Expectations With Your Co-Parent, and Develop Your Holiday […]

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