The holidays are just around the corner. And though they may be filled with cheer, they are often filled with stress too, as people plan get-togethers with family and friends.

For divorced parents, that holiday stress might compound when they think of how to plan and navigate sharing parenting time. So, here are some tips to help divorced parents navigate the holidays.

1. Make plans in advance, but be flexible

Under Illinois law, divorcing parents must create a parenting plan in their custody agreement. The parenting plan generally includes the schedule for how parents will divide time with their child during specific holidays.

However, the holidays are a busy time, filled with family celebrations and travel. It might be necessary to adjust the holiday parenting schedule each year. If so, parents should tell their co-parent about their plans in advance, so they can negotiate a new schedule that best works for everyone in the family.

2. Communicate with your co-parent

Communication is already a critical element of a healthy co-parenting relationship. It is even more so over the busy holiday season. It might be helpful for co-parents to ensure they communicate about:

  • Changes to their child’s schedules;
  • Vacation plans long before the vacation; and
  • Gift ideas for their children.

3. Do not compete

Even if the divorce was amicable, it is common for divorced parents to try and compete with each other to be the better parent in their child’s eyes. Around the holidays, this competition often comes in the form of material gifts. Parents might spend more money on their child’s gifts than they usually would in an attempt to outdo the other parent and essentially “win.”

In the long run, this kind of competition can have negative effects on both children and their parents. It might be helpful to coordinate on gifts for the children to avoid competition.

4. Try to put the kids first

It is only natural for parents to be disappointed or sad that their children will spend at least part of the holiday with their co-parent. However, parents must put their children’s needs first in these cases. To do this, it might help if parents:

  • Ask children how they want to celebrate;
  • Avoid saying negative things about the co-parent; and
  • Focus on the time they do have with their children, to make the most of it.

If parents focus on making the holiday fun for the children, while ensuring their needs are met too, it can help to avoid conflict and stress this holiday season.