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How do I create a Holiday Parenting Plan that works?

On Behalf of | Dec 13, 2012 | Custody, Divorce, Family law, Parenting Plans, Uncategorized, Visitation

Being a single parent during the holidays can be tough. By planning in advance you can save yourself from some of the holiday stress. We find that having a well thought out parenting plan for the children, including acceptable exchange times, is key to having the holidays go smoothly. Children appreciate certainty and knowing where they are going to be for any given holiday. They also like to know that the other parent is being treated fairly and not left alone for the holiday. Structure is very important for younger children and toddlers. Even when the parties are in agreement as to sharing the holidays, it is important to establish a plan well in advance so that everyone can share in the holidays and make plans for themselves as well.

If you are not scheduled to be with your children for an important holiday, it is important to make plans for yourself well in advance. Schedule a vacation or some fun activity with friends or family so that you to have a quality holiday and are not left alone. Otherwise you could face a long, lonely day when everyone else is with family and friends and most stores are closed. We find that treating yourself to something you can look forward to while the children are with the other parent is an effective way to enjoy the holidays. It is important that the children are not put in a position where they feel sorry for you, and that they know that you are happy and well taken care of. This will allow them to fully enjoy the holiday themselves with the other parent.


Many holidays have multiple celebration days. Christmas can be divided with Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Most school age children now have winter break. We find it particularly effective to divide winter break into the “front half” and “back half” with each parent taking equal time and dividing the break with a Christmas Day transition. For example, mom could have the children for the morning and father have the children for the rest of day. Exchange times can revolve around the family meal and the break and also be alternated on even and odd years so that one parent has the “front half” and Christmas morning in even years and the “back half” and New Years in odd. Many families prefer to have standard time each winter break so that the kids know that they are always with one parent on the front half and the other on the back half.

This same arrangement can be used for Spring Break with each parent having the children for one half of the break and the transition occurring at mid day at the mid-point of the break, generally on Wednesday, of the holiday.

Easter may be divided with Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and Passover may be divided with the first night of Seder and the second night of Seder.
Other holidays, such as Halloween and 4th of July can be celebrated during the season, so that one parent gets the calendar holiday and the other a holiday party or barbeque so that the parent and his or her friends and family are in involved in the holiday each year. Kids are comfortable with this arrangement because they are used to working around the schedules of their friends and family which will celebrate with parties or events on various days throughout that particular holiday season.


Federal holidays are generally celebrated on Mondays. A good practice is to attach the holiday to the parent’s normal weekend so that they can enjoy three day weekend and an additional 24 hours. Labor day and Memorial day can also be alternated between parents so that one enjoys each holiday.


Many families find that alternating the holidays, with one parent having the holiday in even-numbered years, and the other having the children in odd-numbered years works well. It is common practice to alternate Spring break in this fashion to allow for a longer vacation and travel plans. Thanksgiving is often handled this way as well.
This practice can also be used effectively to create traditions for events that are important to your particular family. So, if one family has a special event held each year, (e.g. a family reunion) the other parent will have the children on another holiday or special event that year. This allows you to create family traditions that are repeated each year and looked forward to by the children.


Birthdays may or may not supersede the regular parenting plan. Again the birthdays may be alternated or may be attached to normal parenting time. Other families prefer to celebrate birthday’s together and focus on the child’s enjoyment and celebration. This promotes healthy interaction and open communication between both families. It is a good idea to talk in advance about your plans for your child’s birthday to avoid conflict and to help the event go smoothly. Birthdays can also be effectively celebrated in the same manner seasonal events. Again, children are accustomed to celebrating birthdays with their friends as is convenient to everyone’s schedules. The actual day of the celebration is not as important as the quality of the time spent on the event.


Whether you need to establish a new parenting plan or modify an existing parenting plan, you need the advice of an experienced parenting plan attorney. We recognize that spending quality parenting time with your children during the holidays and throughout the year is the most important thing to you and your family. The Law Offices of Paul F. Sherman has substantial experience in drafting and enforcing parenting plans that work.


We know you have more questions and we have the answers. If you would like to know more about parenting plans that work, call the Law Offices of Paul F. Sherman at (503) 223-8441 or Contact Us for a free parenting time consultation.