The holiday season is supposed to be fun but scheduling can get overwhelming. That is true for anyone but especially for parents who are separated or divorced and have twice as much celebrating to manage.
Your holiday visitation arrangements were likely determined in the divorce but each year certain details need to be worked out again. What can you do to keep cool?
A Philosophical Approach
Prioritize: Before you negotiate with your ex, make a list for yourself. Are there events that you absolutely must attend with your children? Do your parents insist on Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve while the ex's family orders in Chinese food? Know before you exchange about holiday visitation what is really important to you and be prepared to bend too. Deciding in advance what you need prevents discussions from devolving into a battle.
Check In With the Children: Depending on their ages and the specifics of the situation, your children may be able to give you valuable insight on how to spend the holidays. Just like you, they have inner lives. Take some time to get a sense of what is important to them and what they want to do on vacation. You may not be able to do what you used to when the family was together but what can you discover together now?
Open Your Mind: Divorce is destabilizing and can leave you feeling disappointed. But we never know what will be, whether we are single or married. That is the nature of life. So make sure that before you exchange with your ex about holiday visitation, you sit with yourself. Whatever stage of the split you are in, and however difficult the circumstances, take a moment to consciously shift perspective. Life has been full of surprises, sweet and bitter. There are more surprises to come. It's inevitable. A philosophical approach will make exchange less likely to become vicious and personal.
Keep Communication Cool: Maybe you know you blow a gasket when your ex triggers sore spots. If possible, find a mode of communication that enables you to keep cool ... or at least seem to. If you can't resist firing off a snarky email as soon as you get one, make a rule that you cannot reply until two hours have passed. If the sound of your ex spouse's voice drives you mad, do not discuss visitation on the phone.
Plan to Be Flexible
The goal is just to make arrangements that satisfy everyone to the extent possible and that will not trigger disputes. You may not be together anymore but you and the ex will always be your children's parents. Make it easy on everyone by having a plan to be flexible.
That said, if your struggle to schedule becomes unmanageable, speak to a divorce lawyer. Get help with visitation arrangements.