Dear Bundoo: Divorced with kids at Christmas—Help!

Divorce is never easy, but it’s especially hard on children. One mom is unsure of how to split her children’s holiday time between herself and her ex. Is there one right way? See what our expert says.

Dear Bundoo,

After 5 years of marriage, my husband and I amicably divorced six months ago.  We’ve done really well co-parenting thus far and have agreed to joint custody of our children, 4 and 2. My issue is with the upcoming holidays. Previously, we would spend the morning opening gifts, the afternoon playing with new toys and games, and having dinner with my family. This year, my ex-husband wants them for all of Christmas Day. I know children thrive on consistency, and I’d like to keep that going during the holidays, but I’m not sure how to negotiate splitting time with my ex. How can I make us all happy, children included?

—Holiday Splitter

Dear Holiday Splitter,

I am glad to hear that to this point you have had an amicable divorce and have shared the load of co-parenting so well. This benefits the children and parents immeasurably! You are correct that children thrive on consistency, however, it is expected that the holidays will be shared.

Negotiating shared time can be a very sensitive topic for all parties. It is inevitable that someone will be sad or longing for more time with the children at some point over the holidays. It is not fair for one parent alone to have the kids and maintain the traditions that had been established when your marriage was intact. Therefore, a compromise will have to be reached. It is common practice to alternate holidays between the two homes. So one year the children will be with you and the next they will be with dad.

How you work this out will be completely up to the two of you. Some choose to split the day in half giving each parent some time with the children on Christmas, and some choose to have the entire day and alternate years. Splitting the day in half can leave everyone feeling rushed and frustrated to fit everything in they want in a short period of time. Alternating years has its drawbacks, too. When negotiating who will have the children when and for how long, it is important to be sensitive to the fact that one parent will feel they are missing out on an important time. Either way there will be an adjustment at some point for everyone. It is a good time to establish new traditions that everyone can depend on and even look forward to for the years to come.


Answered by Raquel Anderson, EdD, LMHC, Bundoo Behavioral Health Specialist

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About Jon VanZile, Bundoo Content Director

Jon VanZile is the Content Director at Bundoo and edits the weekly Dear Bundoo column.


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