It’s time for the Yu Family Law 12 Tips of Christmas! The holidays are such a stressful time no matter what your family looks like. Those who are navigating co-parenting relationships or experiencing their first holiday as a separated or divorced family during the holidays inevitably face an additional type of holiday stress and sometimes grief. All 12 tips are designed to help alleviate some of that holiday stress and help everyone focus on all the joy that this holiday brings!
✨ Tip 1
Review your parenting plan and check your holiday Schedule!
Remember that your holiday schedule will be different than the normal parenting time schedule. The holiday schedule will almost always take precedence over the regular parenting time schedule. Make sure to also check your child’s school or daycare schedule to plan for winter break and confirm the schedule accordingly with your co-parent. It’s already getting pretty close to the holiday so, if you haven’t done so already, Checking your parenting plan and holiday schedule NOW will help you stay organized and prepared should any scheduling conflicts arise, instead of scrambling when the time comes! Don’t just check it, confirm your understanding of it with your co-parent.
Some things to pay attention to:
– When do you exchange the kids? Days and times are likely different than other holidays since this is one of the longest breaks from school the kids get.
– Are there any provisions about “neither parent shall have 2 or 3 weekends in a row”? If so, pull out the calendar, mark your days, and see what adjustments need to be made.
If you’re anything like me – you’re probably relying pretty heavily on Amazon Prime to finish up that gift list.
Before you buy a duplicate gift, try to coordinate with your co-parent on the children’s gifts. You don’t want Santa leaving the same gift at each house, or forgetting about a certain gift because you thought the other parent got it. Consult with your co-parent and go over the gifts each child is wanting, who is getting what, etc. It doesn’t have to be a big production. A quick conversation – whether it’s in person, or over text/email – can help keep everyone on the same page and cut down on a lot of stress and anxiety surrounding the children’s gifts. Co-parents working together is really the best gift that you can give your children – so make the effort!
Help your children with a gift for your co-parent. It doesn’t matter if you take your kids shopping or help them create a handmade gift at home. The gift doesn’t have to be elaborate or over the top, a little effort really does go a long way. Having your children help pick or create a present for the other parent shows them an amicable, considerate and friendly side of your co-parenting relationship, which sends a positive message they will carry with them for their lifetimes. Do this each and every year, even if the other parent does not do this for you.Your children won’t remember the gifts that were bought each year, but they will remember that you put their feelings first and that’s one of the most meaningful gifts you can give them.
FIVE days of school left – take some time for yourself now!
Work in a little time away from all the holiday hustle and bustle for some self-care in the coming days. The holidays are a special time with your kids, but the long school vacation, Christmas, gifts, and entirely too much sugar all at once can be stressful and overwhelming. Take some time to go get a massage or hair cut, take a walk at your favorite quiet spot, get in a good long nap, spend too much time in the dollar section at Target – just do something that makes your heart happy!
Self-care is necessary for bringing out the best version of yourself and helps you feel relaxed and rejuvenated enough to get through the rest of the holiday season. You absolutely deserve that time and don’t even think about feeling guilty about it. Family time is important, but it’s also important to take some time for YOU!
Your children have people who play big roles in their lives and are incredibly important to them – their teachers, daycare workers, coaches or babysitters to name a few.
PRO Tip! Work with your co-parent on gifts for these important people so you aren’t duplicating efforts. You have an opportunity to divide and conquer here! This is a great co-parenting pro tip that has the added bonus of sharing in the cost of the gift with your co-parent and sharing the responsibility of remembering to give it!
Have one parent help the child create the gift and have the other assist with dropping it off or let the children make something at each home that goes into one gift (this gives the kids something fun to do at both homes!). It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose or break the bank. Help your children handmake an ornament or bake a batch of Christmas cookies. You’re teaching your kids an important lesson and it gives your children an activity to focus on during the long winter break – total win-win!
There is only ONE DAY OF SCHOOL LEFT before winter vacation!
What can you do to take care of YOU in these next two days before schools and daycares close for the long break? I am with you in staring down all those days off and…😱Give yourself some space in the next couple of days. Take a long lunch or an afternoon off of work if you can fit it in. See if someone will watch the kids for a few hours one (or multiple) evening. Go catch a matinee, have a meal with a friend, take a long walk, or binge-watch a few Christmas movies in your PJ’s. There are plenty of ways to take some time to yourself that are inexpensive or free. Even if it’s just for a little while, take some time for yourself in the next few days and practice some self-care! Don’t get so wrapped up in the holiday stress that you forget to take care of yourself. The only thing you should be wrapping up is last-minute presents!
Being a step-parent can be a challenge whatever time of year, but Christmas and navigating the holiday parenting plan can add a completely different level of stress. If your children have step-parents or step-siblings in their lives, it’s important to remember them this holiday season too. Your communications regarding your parenting plan and executing the logistics of it should be with your co-parent. However, Step-parents and step-siblings likely play a big role in your children’s lives and have to work around a co-parenting schedule on which they have very little or zero input.
Take a few minutes this Christmas and remember to consider their experience as you work through holiday plans (And gifts!). It truly is the thought that counts, you don’t have to spend a ton of money or make a grand gesture. A simple handmade craft with the kids, an assortment of goods you baked or even a hand-written Christmas card thanking them for loving your kids will go a long way and will teach your children a lifelong lesson.
✨ Tip 8
Being flexible is the key to a low-stress holiday season, especially when co-parenting plays a huge role in holiday planning. Travel plans, family gatherings, holiday events, school closures, last-minute plan changes, illness – all things that can easily stress you out this season!
Take a breath, learn to adjust and be flexible. Work with your co-parent to make sure your kids have a safe and happy holiday, even when things get stressful. Be present and make the most of this holiday season!
When you are separated, trying to maintain old holiday traditions can end up causing stress and putting unnecessary pressure on both parents and children. It can be hard accepting that the traditions that once brought so much joy might have to change or cease altogether. lnstead of stressing or feeling anxious about old holiday traditions, take the opportunity to make some new traditions with your children! There are plenty of ways to create memorable holiday experiences for your children and build new, lasting traditions. Creating new traditions together helps build a special bond between you and your children and gives them something to look forward to each year.
START THIS YEAR! It doesn’t have to be costly or a big production.
– Make an event out of decorating your house and Christmas tree with your children. Have them help decorate, bake cookies, wear the silly Christmas pajamas, and watch Christmas movies.
– Create a new ornament with your children each year. When they are grown you and your children both will cherish having those memories displayed on your Christmas tree.
– Ride around with Christmas music and hot chocolate looking at Christmas lights.
– Decorate gingerbread houses (kits are available pretty much everywhere to make this an easy project)
– Volunteer at a local charity together
When you are co-parenting during the holidays, the time spent away from your children can seem extra lonely. However, the days where your children are with your co-parent present the perfect opportunity to practice some self-care. Make a conscious effort not to isolate yourself if the holiday blues set in. The house may feel empty, but there are plenty of things you can do to keep yourself busy and maintaining a positive outlook:
– Schedule a night out with a few friends
– Host a holiday gathering
– Go see some live music or a movie – even if you go alone, you’re still out with other people
– Take that day trip or small vacation you’ve been holding out on taking
✨ Tip 11
Make sure you focus on what really matters this holiday season – TIME TOGETHER! Remember, it’s not about the gifts, it’s about the memories you and your children create by being together. A lot of parents overcompensate with gifts because they feel guilty that the children do not have both parents in the household. As parents, the absolute greatest gift you can give your children is your love, attention and time. Your presence and love as individual co-parents IS enough and it’s way more important than the latest toy.
Be present and don’t let the distractions of holiday stress and guilt get in the way. There is only one chance to enjoy THIS Christmas. The memories you create during the holidays will stay with your children forever – don’t be so focused on the presents that you forget to be present.
✨ Tip 12
Many co-parents will be exchanging kids today or in the next few days. Remember – do NOT excessively question your children about their time spent with the other parent.
When co-parenting, it can be really tough to miss out on those fun holiday moments with your kids. However, it’s important to encourage your children to have fun and make those memories with their other parent, and not interrogate them when they return. Your children shouldn’t feel like they have to “hide” the fun time they had. If the children talk about the fun things they did with your co-parent, don’t get visibly upset. It’s hard to hear about all the fun you missed out on, but It’s a great thing for your children to want to share their joy with you. It means you’re doing something right! Your children feel comfortable sharing things with you! What really matters is that your kids are safe, happy, and are making memories with both of their parents.