It is finally here, the happiest time of the year!

Happiest, and for a lot of people the most stressful. There is so much to manage: money, travel, gatherings, and for those who are raising a family in two homes there is a need to figure out what the parenting arrangement is going to look like for the holiday season.

I certainly can’t provide insight into all of these extra stressors, but I can offer five tips on how to manage shared parenting over the holidays:

1 – It’s all about the kids

This one seems obvious, but put the kids first, especially during the holiday season. When having any conversation about parenting, the kids should always be the focus. Try to put your differences aside to give your kids a good holiday.

Our kids pick up on when we are stressed or anxious about the holidays, especially when that is directed at their other parent, which takes away from our kids’ holiday as well.

So, make sure that you don’t put the kids in the middle of trying to make the parenting arrangements. Don’t ask young kids who they want to spend Christmas with, they will tell you what they think that you want to hear. Chances are that the kids probably want to spend time with both parents over the holidays, so find a way to make that happen.

2 – Be flexible

A lot of shared parenting arrangements have very rigid guidelines as to which parent has the kids on which weekend and the like. During the holidays it is sometimes necessary to divert from those rigid schedules to make it work.

People’s work schedules change over the holidays. Sometimes people have to coordinate with blended families or extended families as to when get togethers can happen, even though lots of get togethers are not really an option this year with Covid-19.

Also, we live in Canada with Canadian weather, so weather could change even the best laid plans. To deal with all of these moving parts, parents that are raising their children in two homes need to be flexible and cooperate to make the season go as smoothly as possible.

3 – Be proactive

Plan ahead.  Don’t leave making the parenting arrangements to the last minute, because we all know things are busier and more hectic as we get closer to the holiday season. It is definitely best to start having the conversation as early as September or even in the summer.

You know what you need to have in place to make the holidays move smoothly. For some people there needs to be a schedule planned down to the pick up times, for others they can coordinate daily to see what the day is going to look like.  You need to make sure that you have what you need to be arranged in advance, and then be flexible as things come up, because last minute is not fun for anybody.

If parenting arrangements are difficult for you to talk about, or if you have trouble communicating with your ex at all, then involve someone that can help you figure it out. Many times, that person can be someone that is known to both of you, or it can be a professional like a mediator or a child psychologist. The bottom line is start the conversation early so that you are not stuck without a plan and lots of stress and emotions about the holidays.

4 – Be creative

Everybody’s situation is different, so your parenting arrangements will also be different. Some people alternate years of having the kids on Christmas days, some people split the day, and others will put aside their differences for the day and both spend the days with the kids. Other people have completely different arrangements.

So be creative, look at what both you and your ex can make work and figure something out that works for your family. It doesn’t have to look like anything that you have seen before.

5 – Don’t make assumptions

Everybody who knows me, knows that I talk about the dangers of making assumptions all the time. It is especially a danger where emotions are high and new holiday traditions need to be made.

Don’t assume the motivations or intention of your ex when they make suggestions during the conversation of making parenting arrangements. Chances are they are not trying to hurt you or your feelings, but they are doing their best to make sure that they get to spend time with the kids over the holidays. Ask your ex the “why” of the suggestion, or to “tell me more about that” so that you can understand what their motivations, without assuming. If you are having trouble having these conversations, enlist someone to help you out.

Remember that it is not about you — it is all about the kids.

Happy Holidays, and you will hear from me again in the New Year.