Most separated parents will have a parenting arrangement in place week-to-week, whether it be on a week about basis or an alternating basis.
These arrangements can become difficult during the summer school holiday period at the end of the school year, when parents start making plans for Christmas time and travel away from home.
Negotiating your parenting arrangement with your co-parent can be tough when there are competing schedules and travel plans.
There are a few things that parents can do to make the holiday season that little bit easier…
1. Make a plan with your co-parent
Prospectively discussing with your co-parent your ideas about how the children could spend the Christmas and New Year periods before anything is booked and plans are set in stone is more likely to result in agreement and minimise conflict.
Co-parents should try to agree on:
How, when and where changeovers will occur;
Where the children will be spending the holidays, if not at home;
Time spent with extended family members; and
Any extra-curricular activities or social events the children will be attending.
2. Decide how the children will spend Christmas Day
What works for one family may not work for another. Some common arrangements we see parents making for Christmas are:
Children spending from Christmas Eve until Christmas morning with one parent and from lunch time on Christmas to Boxing Day with the other parent.
Children with one parent for Christmas Day and spending a few hours during the day with the other parent.
Children spending the week that Christmas falls in with one parent and the following week with the other parent.
Children spending the first three weeks of the summer school holiday period with one parent and the latter three weeks with the other parent.
3. Communicate with your co-parent
The holiday season can be a difficult time for children in separated families so it’s more important than ever that parents are able to communicate in a child focussed manner about what is in the best interests of the children. Communication does not need to be face-to-face. It is often preferable that parents discuss their parenting arrangement in writing (via email or text) as parents can refer back to the conversation to cross-check plans and eliminate ambiguity.
There are a range of fantastic co-parenting apps parents may use, such as 2Houses (Android, Apple), FamCal (Android, Apple) and Our Family Wizard (Android, Apple), that create a platform for parents to co-ordinate schedules, send requests to vary arrangements and communicate about all things in relation to the children.
4. The best interests of the children
Above all else, consider how the children would like to spend the holidays and whether it’s in their best interests. Do not ask the children directly if they are of a young age. Where possible, try to ensure the children can see both sides of the family such as grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins.