Family Dynamics: Managing the Holidays

The holidays seem to be branded as the “most wonderful time of the year,” but if you are divorced or unmarried with children, it can be the “most stressful time of the year.”

Depending on your parenting plan or the terms of your divorce, sharing time with children during the biggest holidays of the year can be emotional for everyone involved. Having a plan ahead of time can reduce the stress and conflict of time sharing with parents, grandparents, and extended family.

Here are a few suggestions to manage family relationships over the holiday season:


If you have a formal parenting plan that outlines which parent will have the child(ren) during certain holidays (for example: Dad has Thanksgiving and Mom has Christmas or Hanukkah and then swap the following year, and so forth), and you have an issue that arises, try to work it out with the other parent. If both parties cannot work together to resolve any issues, it may be necessary to address it with legal representation.


Whether in person, phone, email, or text, stay in communication with the other parent about scheduling. Stick to the agreement of when and where the kids will be dropped off and picked up. Be flexible if there are last minute delays or changes. If you feel there is a deliberate or premeditated change that causes you to lose holiday time with your child, make note of it and if necessary, advise your legal representative.


If your relationship is amicable and the holidays are typically never an issue, the children will ultimately benefit in the long term. However, if the parents can’t seem to keep a balanced, respectful relationship, it will be felt by the children and this is not in their best interest overall. During the holiday season which should be a time for being around family and friends, it is even more important to put their needs first so that the joy of the season isn’t shrouded by hurt feelings and past grudges.

From all of us at Wagstaff, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season. If you have any questions about post-divorce planning, parenting plans, grandparent visitation, or other family issues, give us a call. We’d be happy to help.