Surviving the holidays when sharing custody
Sharing custody of your child(ren) can always be stressful. Add on the hussle and bussle of the holiday season and the stress levels can skyrocket. This can be especially true if you and the other parent do not have a positive co-parenting relationship. Even if there is a great relationship between the 2 parents, sharing custody will always mean that there are times that the child(ren) are not with you and this can make for upset, stress and confusion for the children as well. Surviving this stress without excessive upset to anyone needs a lot of patience.
I definitely don’t claim to be anything close to an expert in this subject, but having been doing this for 9 years now, I feel I can share a few things that work for me and what doesn’t work for me.
I think typically if you share custody, then you alternate years for who has Christmas eve/Christmas morning. In my home, regardless of where my son wakes up on Christmas morning, Santa will always have visited our home. On years that my son arrives to my home in the afternoon on Christmas day, his stocking and gifts from Santa are waiting there for him. I explain to my son, that Santa knows that he celebrates Christmas in 2 homes so he drops gifts off at both homes. In the years that I have my son on Christmas Eve/morning, we open our family presents on Christmas Eve day so that he can have time to enjoy playing with them and then Santa gifts on Christmas morning.
Only having my son 1/2 the time, inevitably there are events that we will be invited to that fall on times he is with his father, that he won’t be able to attend. We are used to this and although neither of us like it, we deal with it. Of course, depending of the significance of the event, one can always try to negotiate with the other parent to switch times/days. Sometimes this can work out or ultimately cause further stress and upset. Over the years, I have learned what battles to fight and which ones to let go. I just hate my son missing out on things due to his parental situation.
We are not a religious family, but my son still likes to partake in the count down to Christmas with an Advent Calendar. This one is kind of tough as he isn’t always able to open each window on the correct day. Sometimes after being at his dad’s for a few days, he has a bunch of little windows to open and subsequently several little chocolates to eat. It’s definitely not the best scenario and almost feels like it defeats the purpose when he isn’t able to open the windows on the correct days, but I am not going to take away a little tradition that a lot of his other friends partake in. This year I actually created my own advent calendar and only made it for the actual days that my son is with me.
Traditions in general
This one is the one I have the hardest “surviving”. I would love to be able to have a Christmas Eve tradition and a Christmas morning tradition that we can do every year, but when he spends those days at his dad’s every other year, it’s a little bit difficult. Luckily, there are things like putting up the tree and seeing one of the local Santa parades, and pictures with Santa that we can work our schedule around and make traditions out of those. We make the best of what we have and enjoy the season the best we can with the time we have. It’s all about the quality of time we have together not the quantity.
Since we have a set schedule for the holidays, family always knows in advance when we can celebrate together and when we can’t. It can sometimes make things tricky when we have to worry about the weather for travelling but we keep that in mind too and have contingency plans in place in case the weather decides not to cooperate.
This “sharing” the holidays is definitely not what I signed up for when I became a Mom, but I want my son to grow up enjoying all the love and excitement that the holiday season has to offer and not having to do without.
Wishing you and yours the happiest and stress-free holiday season!
Note: This post was originally published in November 2016 but has been updated.