Holidays, Parenting Time Trades, and Half-Days, Oh My!
Coordinating parenting time over holidays and no-school days doesn't have to be tricky.
The worries that plague many coparents may not lend themselves as readily to a tune like lions, tigers, and bears do, but that doesn’t lessen their prevalence in parents’ everyday thoughts. But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and many of these fears can be avoided through careful preparation, open communication, and a willingness to compromise. Forgotten supplies, ‘surprise’ field trips, and cancelled school days can all add to the chaos of acclimating to new routines, especially when factoring in recently separated households. Using the right tools for the job, however, can do wonders to help you handle any foreseeable or last-minute changes with confidence.
Holidays should not sneak up on parents because you can anticipate their exact dates many years in advance. But some parents will delay solidifying these plans until they’re looming right around the corner. The thought of holidays alone can awaken tension between even the most amicable of coparents. If you’re having trouble motivating yourself to start planning for the holidays, consider the following:
- Do Plan in Advance: Planning months out may seem tedious, but doing so will relieve much of the stress from the process as a holiday draws nearer. Consider a rotating plan for holidays so that the schedule is predictable for your family. While a rotating plan may not quell all of the emotions that tend to arise with holidays, it will help to ensure that your children see both of their parents over holidays on a regular basis. Then if any of your plans end up changing, you’ll only be dealing with those changes in particular, rather than in addition to other scheduling needs surrounding holiday exchange times.
- Consider Extended Family: When families go through a divorce or separation, your children’s relationships with their extended family members may be affected as well. Where play-dates between cousins were easily scheduled previously, now you must account for which parent the child is with before connecting with extended family. If you know that your co-parent’s family often has a big shindig for a specific holiday, where yours may choose a different holiday for their big get-together, consider factoring that into your decision while planning holidays.
- Splitting A Holiday: If you plan far in advance, you even give yourself the opportunity to split the day (or long weekend) itself. Some holidays give your children quite a bit of time away from school, so it’s possible that you and your co-parent can both spend time with your children on a special day. These types of arrangements are best solidified early since they require special attention location distances and transportation needs.
Once you and your co-parent have agreed on a holiday schedule for the year, be sure to make note of those decisions in a shared-parenting calendar. Make sure all dates and times are accurate and agreed upon. Share the schedule with your children as well, so they are familiar with their schedule and can voice any questions.
Planned half-days and non-holiday school breaks can be easier for co-parents to plan since they often don’t carry the same emotional weight of many winter holidays, but they can still throw a wrench into the work week. Your child’s school will most likely provide a Fall term schedule in advance of the first day of school. As soon as the schedule is available, you and your co-parent should begin discussing how these days-off will be handled. If an extra Friday or Monday off of school happens during your parenting time, but your co-parent’s work schedule can better accommodate weekday custody, consider proposing a change to your parenting schedule. The further in advance these anomalies in your child’s schedule can be handled, the less tension will be added to your co-parenting relationship, and thus, less tension that your children will have to experience second-hand between their parents.
Parenting Schedule Trades and Changes
Whether changes to your parenting schedule can be anticipated or are due to unexpected circumstances, try to handle them with as little conflict as possible in order to come to a solution as quickly as you can. If you know that your schedule cannot accommodate specific dates of your parenting time, alert your co-parent as soon as you are able. Making changes to a parenting schedule can be a fraught topic, so utilizing a system that helps take the narrative out of the equation can help smooth the exchange to a great extent. Keep your request to the basic facts. For example, OurFamilyWizard’s specialized Trade/Swap tool only asks for the following details:
1. Dates of proposed change
2. Date by which the parent requesting the change needs a response
3. Short reason for needed change to schedule
By providing a specific area for these types of request, rather than burying them during exchanges of other information, requests remain clear and easily referenced in the future.
It may be tempting to see requests for parenting schedule changes as being tit-for-tat, but parents should try approaching these requests with flexibility and compassion. Last minute disruptions happen to everyone, and as long as requests are neither overly-frequent nor one-sided, co-parents should aim to help each other navigate these deviations from regularly scheduled time.
Preparing your schedule well in advance can be a daunting task, especially when you’re coordinating with a co-parent. Regardless, co-parents should make a special effort to solidify holiday plans and school schedule anomalies far before they actually happen. Having a set and concrete schedule will lessen not only your own anxiety but your children’s as well. Utilizing a shared-parenting communication tool like OurFamilyWizard can help reduce conflict surrounding scheduling. A platform with unique tools specifically formatted to the needs of shared parenting will help you and your co-parent anticipate possible points of conflict and reduce sources of miscommunication. Make holiday planning and parenting time trades easier with OurFamilyWizard. Create an account for your family today.
NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.
Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.