Warmest Wishes—Co-parenting peacefully through the holidays and giving the kids a joyful season

Request a Consultation

The decorations, twinkle lights, shop windows, and songs all say it’s the most wonderful time of the year. But when you’re in the midst of a painful divorce or newly navigating co-parenting, the holidays can be a challenging time.

‘Tis the season for a fresh wave of sorrow, disappointment, loneliness, regret, wistfulness, guilt, and feeling overwhelmed. That’s completely understandable. But you can get through this with a mindful approach. Being intentional about caring for yourself—body and soul- is essential.

And when it comes to supporting your kids through their first holiday season after divorce, some key co-parenting strategies can help.

Communicate. The demands of co-parenting combined with the extra hustle and bustle of the holidays can lead to misunderstandings and conflict if you don’t actively communicate about plans and purpose.

Focus on what you can agree on. You and your ex may disagree on just about everything right now—but chances are, you both want your children to have a low-stress season full of joy, love, and minimal disruptions despite the difficulty. Do your best to set aside your differences and honestly ask, how can we cooperate to make that holiday wish a reality? Think about your shared values. For example, what events and traditions are most important to preserve and keep consistent for the kids; what can you let go of to minimize stress?

Center the children. In custody decisions, the court must prioritize the children’s best interests. Make that your mantra for co-parenting through the holidays. No matter what’s happening between you, look for ways to create a warm, bright, familiar, festive atmosphere for your kids. Think about what will give them a sense of stability and continuity. Ensure they have quality time with both parents. Remember that children’s needs change as they grow. Parents of little ones will have to plan around nap times, while teens on school vacation will need time to spend with friends.

Plan ahead. You won’t be able to eliminate all stress and confusion during this intense season. Everyone is juggling and learning. But making your holiday plans well in advance will help smooth the way. Use technology—there are many great apps and calendars to support co-parents. Your parenting plan should provide a framework for holiday schedules—review and abide by it. Remember that knowing what to expect helps children feel secure and comfortable. Ensure you communicate with your kids about the holiday plans; prepare them for what will be different this year and what will stay the same.

Make sure the kids feel heard. In addition to communicating clearly about plans, encourage your kids to talk about their feelings. Validate them. Acknowledge that change is hard and that new holiday arrangements will take some time. When age-appropriate, allow kids to have a say in planning.

Get on the same page about gift-giving. It’s not uncommon for parents to find themselves using the gift-giving season to outdo each other, vying for a child’s affection, or lessen guilt by showering the kids with lavish gifts. It’s wise to establish some reasonable gift-giving guidelines with your co-parent. It’s not a competition! Be mindful of each other’s circumstances— money may be tight for everyone or one parent may be more financially secure than the other. Discuss gifts, spending limits, and what items are age-appropriate and aligned with your family’s values,

Sharing is caring. Everyone’s to-do list is a mile long right now. Look for ways to share responsibility (logistical, financial, etc.) so both partners feel supported.

Stay flexible. The holidays are hectic, and unexpected situations will arise—a last-minute party invitation for the kids, a snowstorm, a surprise visit from the grandparents. If you’re willing to compromise—to trade a day or pick up the kids when your ex gets held up at work—they will likely reciprocate when something suddenly comes up on your end.

Give peace a chance. The research is clear: children suffer when exposed to frequent or heated parental conflict. Do your best to avoid tension and arguments with your ex when the kids are around. If you disagree, commit to working it out privately. Make sure to model cooperation and positive communication for the children’s sake. Show your goodwill by helping the kids pick out a gift for our ex; be upbeat about the time they will spend with their other parent, and encourage them to have a great time.

Honor old traditions and create new ones. Respect the traditions and beliefs your co-parent’s family holds dear; it’s an excellent opportunity for your kids to experience and appreciate the diverse ways people celebrate. At the same time, while it won’t all happen the first year, you can start planting the seeds of new traditions now. Get the kids involved in inventing fresh ways to celebrate and make wonderful memories—this can help you establish and honor your family in its new form.

Don’t go it alone. Despite your best efforts, the stress of the first post-divorce holiday season can feel overwhelming —for you or your children. Don’t hesitate to seek professional support.

The skilled and compassionate family lawyers at SFLG can help you navigate all aspects of divorce and an effective parenting plan. At the holidays, and every day, we wish you and your family peace.

By Debra Schoenberg


Our Awards and Memberships

Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., recognizes that family law matters involve complex, sensitive issues that can have a lasting impact on you, your family, your finances and your future.

More About Honors & Awards
Arrow Image
10.0 Avvo Superb Top Attorney Family Law, Divorce
Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal
American Jurist Institute Top 10 Attorneys 2017
2022 Client Satisfaction American Institute of Family Law Attorneys 10 Best
100 Fastest-Growing Private Companies In the Bay Area San Francisco Business Times
10 Best Female Attorneys 2017 American Institute of Family Law Attorneys
San Francisco Bay Area's Best and Brightest Companies to Work For Winner 2021
2018 Best Lawyers Best Law Firms U.S. News & World Report
California Board of Legal Specialization (CBLS) State Bar of California
2020 Client Champion Debra R. Schoenberg
San Francisco Business Times Corporate Philanthropy Awards 2019
Expertise Best Divorce Lawyers in Concord 2020
2018 Expertise Best Divorce Lawyers in San Francisco
Fast 100
Lead Counsel Rated
Litigation Counsel of America (LCA) Fellow
National Board of Trial Advocacy
2017 Parents' Press Best of The Bay
San Francisco Business Times
Rated By Super Lawyers Debra R. Schoenberg
The Business of Pride
2021 Best Businesses Three Best Rated
San Francisco Business Times Corporate Philanthropy Awards & Summit
American Jurist Institute Top 10 Attorneys of 2018
Arrow Image