Co-Parenting During the Holidays

For many children, Christmas is an exciting time filled with family, good food, presents, and celebration. However, for recently divorced parents juggling co-parenting, the holidays may look a bit different. The key to successful co-parenting, though, is to act in the best interest of the child(ren) and try to keep things as normal as possible. The experienced legal team at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, can offer the following tips, which may make it a bit easier to co-parent during the holidays:

Before Scheduling Holiday Activities, Consult Your Parenting Plan

In the spirit of fairness and to make sure the holidays run smoothly, make sure both you and your ex-spouse are on the same page regarding the co-parenting plan or custody agreement. The last thing you want to do is force your child to choose where to spend the holidays. Co-parenting plans are usually set up during the divorce process and are used to ensure that each parent gets to spend time with their children. Some parenting agreements may have the children spending Thanksgiving with mom and Christmas with dad one year, and then vice versa the next. Compromising is a big component of co-parenting plans, and any decision should be made with the best interest of the children in mind.

Determine How Drop-offs and Pick-ups Will Work

If the plan for the holidays is for children to spend time with both parents at different residences, it is important to have a drop-off and pick-up plan in place and keep it consistent. Do not add stress to the day by trying to change the plan partway through.

What Traditions Will be Celebrated, and Where?

The holidays are filled with traditions and activities, like opening presents, trending religious service, or eating Thanksgiving dinner. Part of co-parenting is deciding which parent will be responsible for celebrating Thanksgiving with the children, and where the children will open Christmas presents and go caroling. Will the children spend time with each parent on each special day? Make it clear what the plan is, and stick to it.

Keep Your Ex in the Loop About Gift Buying

The last thing you want is for your children to end up receiving duplicate gifts at Christmas. Touch base with each other to work out a gift list and determine who will buy what. Try and keep the dollar amount equal so that one parent is not responsible for 75% of the gift-buying budget and the other only has the other 25%.

Be Prepared for Emotional Children

With so many transitions and changes and shuffling back and forth, your children might get a bit emotional. You may witness more tantrums and attitude from them than normal. Try to be understanding and act with grace as you help them navigate through their new normal.

Communicate with Your Children

Let your children know they can always talk to you whenever they are worried or scared. Understand they may have questions about what the holiday season will look like now that you are divorced. Explain the plan to them so they can prepare for it, both emotionally and mentally.

Make Your Own Holiday Traditions

Another way to manage co-parenting stress during the holidays is to consider making new holiday traditions. Making new traditions can make the holidays feel extra special for your kids and give them something to look forward to. Some ideas might include the following:

  • White elephant gift exchange
  • Christmas games
  • Wreath making
  • Christmas sweater party
  • Cookie baking
Leave Time to Relax

Holidays can be hectic and stressful. Make sure to set aside time for everyone to relax, a time where you and the children do not have to do anything or go anywhere.


In all the hustle and bustle and chaos surrounding the holidays, it is easy for your own well-being and health to get sidelined. When possible, take some time for yourself to work on a hobby or read a book. Practice self-care and rest easy knowing that it can do wonders for your stress and moods. A happy parent makes for happy children.

These are just a few tips and suggestions you can try to take the stress out of co-parenting around the holidays. If you have questions about your co-parenting agreement or are recently divorced and need to set one up, the team at Arnold & Smith, PLLC can help. We are passionate about helping families like yours transition to your new normal. With three convenient offices in Charlotte, Monroe and Mooresville as well as telephone and video conferencing options it has never been easier to connect with one of our family law attorneys. Call us today at 704-370-2828.