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When it comes to the holidays, how flexible should I be with the schedule?

by | Jan 4, 2024 | Children and Divorce, Parenting Plans |

For divorced parents during this holiday season we’re just wrapping up, the parenting schedule comes into special focus. Parents are not only aware of what the schedule is, but they’re aware of the limitations and the disappointment that comes with it. It could even be a disappointment you personally registered, regardless of how much your kids enjoyed the holiday season.

As a parent, you’d love to spend the entire holiday season with your kids, and that’s understandable. But if you’re like the vast majority of divorced parents, you used to be married to someone else who also would love to spend the entire holiday with your kids.

There are ultimately two pathways you can go down when it comes to the holiday season, to start thinking about planning for this time next year.

You can keep to the schedule you negotiated at the time of your divorce. If you follow the Texas Family Code’s guidelines, one parent gets the kids from the time school lets out for winter break until Dec. 28 at noon, and the other parent gets the kids from that point to when school resumes. It alternates each year, giving one parent Christmas and the other what we’ve dubbed “Second Christmas.”

But as we noted in a previous blog article, there are a number of creative ways that you can give your children time with both parents on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. If those particular days hold special importance for your kids, there are a number of possibilities here to make sure that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day experience involve both parents. It doesn’t have to be the kind of division where both special days fall solely to one parent.

One creative suggestion we liked there was, “Christmas Eve shall be defined as December 24 at 11 a.m. overnight to December 25 at 11 a.m. Christmas Day shall be defined as from December 25 at 11 a.m., overnight until December 26 at 11 a.m. Father shall have the Children in all odd-numbered years, and Mother shall have the Children in all even years.” 

That one was good because it didn’t require anyone to get up too early, and still allowed the actual Christmas Day experience to include time with Mom and time with Dad no matter what the year.

But there might be reasons that keeping to the Texas Family Code-suggested schedule might be best for the children. For example, if you’re traveling out of town to meet other family members, keeping to the 28th allows for travel time to get back home from wherever you’ve visited.

Certainly, it’s possible to negotiate something that’s fair to everyone. If Mom travels with the kids one year, and Dad wants to travel with the kids the following year, and you put a two-year pause on a Christmas Day exchange, you can do that.

And as we mentioned in another article, the “Second Christmas” you celebrate doesn’t have to be a “second-best” Christmas that feels like a consolation prize. It’s an opportunity to create some really wonderful traditions. While Christmas isn’t quite the same after divorce, just like your remade family isn’t the same after divorce, it can still be wonderful, nurturing and give your children the love and joy that makes both Christmas and family so special.

So, in wondering how flexible you should be in making a holiday schedule with your ex, the north star you use should be your children and what’s best for them. While you certainly want to strive for what’s fair to each parent, you ultimately want what creates the best experience for your children. After all, children get relatively precious few Christmases before they become adults. Making each of them as full of joy as possible is an important gift that you and your ex can give your kids together.