I think we all agree that holidays are crazy as it is. Holidays with a blended family though…that’s another beast. It’s like a multiplier for all things that can go wrong with all the logistics and flexibility needed.
We have my older son at our house every other week (50/50). During the year, we’re able to schedule things so that he’s included in the big events as much as possible. Even with us trying our best, he’s bound to be left out in something. That’s life as a child who goes back and forth. It sucks.
The arrangement my husband and my son’s mom have is to rotate holidays. It’s not ideal, but it’s fair and gives our son a set expectation of where he’ll be any given year.
ODD YEARS - He spends Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve with his dad’s side and Halloween and Christmas are spent with his mom’s side
EVEN YEARS - He spends Halloween and Christmas with his dad’s side and Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve with his mom’s side
If I had to break down the key to surviving the holidays, I would say these are what will set you up for success:
Decide how the holidays will be split - If you don’t have a court agreement or any agreement at all on how the holidays will be split, I highly recommend you get that squared away FIRST. If you don’t, you’re in for a messy, drama FULL holiday season.
Get specific with logistics - Not only is it important to understand what day transfers will take place, but the time of day and location as well. You can be thinking morning while the other person is thinking any time that day works. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and anger! Plan everything, assume nothing.
Share your designated day if it means your child(ren) get to see family - Would it be easier to have them all to yourself the entire day because it’s your day? YES! But easier for who? You or the child? They have relationships with family on both sides and it is equally important for all relationships to be nurtured and for them to be a part of the activities so they don’t feel even more left out than they already do. Discuss where all the festivities are across both families and see if there is any way for kid(s) to go to as many family events as possible. Of course, this goes without saying, think of what is age appropriate. Don’t burn them out or you’re in for a meltdown. If you are parallel parenting because you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, I do not advise deviating from the court ordered schedule. It sucks, but it will keep things much cleaner and drama-free.
Create new and honor old traditions - Sharing custody during the holidays gets challenging when it interferes with following traditions. At my house, we decorate for Christmas the weekend after Thanksgiving. If my stepson isn’t home during that time, we delay it until he returns. Same goes for Christmas… If he’s with us Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve morning as if it’s Christmas Day. When he was younger, we’d tell him that Santa thought he was extra special and visited BOTH houses for him. If timing doesn’t work out because of other kids, try and figure out a way to be fair to all the kids. This may involve getting creative. :)
If the child has grown up following a certain tradition, attempt to incorporate it into the new family’s traditions. My thoughts are, the more stability for the child, the better. As much of a headache this can be for us as parents, it’s not much fun to be the child either.
It’s THEIR present - Once you give the gift to your kid(s), they own it. If they want to take it over to their other house, let them! The last thing you want to do is emphasize to your kid(s) that their life is split into two different worlds that don’t ever intersect. If you get a bike and you want to teach them, tell them that. If they still want to bring it to their other house, let them, but ask them to bring it back when they come back. Communicate what you want so they know where your hesitation is coming from. As much as you can, try to maintain the image of being on the same team with the other parents.
Above all else, make sure you’re taking care of yourself! Say no where you need to so you don’t run yourself down to the point where you become The Grinch. Honor what you can handle and unapologetically leave the rest. It’ll be fine! The point of the holiday season is to enjoy quality time with family and practice gratitude for everything you have. If you feel like you’re stepping outside of the true essence of the holidays, then see what you can cut out! If you need suggestions on how to create or uplevel your self care routine, click the button below to download my guide!
To sum it up, to improve your odds at having a more stress-free holiday season:
Put the kids first
Hope this helps you survive this holiday season!