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Spreading holiday cheer while co-parenting

The holidays are here again. Preparing for family visits, shopping, decorating and cooking can cause any family at least some stress. Hopefully, everyone can take the time to enjoy this time of year as well. If you are recently divorced or going through one, you may wonder if this will even be possible to do so.

For divorced families, there is often the added stress of making sure that each parent gets adequate time with the children, but it may be more than that. Grandparents, cousins and other extended family members may also want to see the children, and that means coordinating holiday activities could present a challenge. With a little planning and some cooperation, everyone could enjoy the holiday season despite a new family dynamic.

What does your parenting plan say?

If you already have a permanent or tentative parenting plan, you may want to review it before sitting down with the other parent to make plans for the remainder of the year. More than likely, you spent a significant amount of time negotiating what's in the plan, so you should consult it before doing anything else.

Of course, extended family, school obligations and other issues could throw a wrench into the best of plans. If it looks as though you will need to negotiate some changes, you may want to be sure that you are willing to be flexible as well. You may refer to your parenting plan regarding how you decided you would resolve conflicts with the other parent should they arise as well.

Communication and scheduling are key

If you are able to do so, sit down and talk to the other parent. Communicating your needs for this time of year, along with your obligations and current schedule, could help the two of you determine how to best handle the holidays. If you are fortunate to have a close enough relationship, you may decide to spend the holidays together. It certainly isn't unheard of these days.

If you do get along, but don't want to share the holidays, then you will probably end up coming to an agreement. However, you will need to be sure that you lay your cards on the table. If you know that your parents are coming to town on a certain day that should belong to your ex, ask if he or she would trade. The worst that will happen is that he or she will say no. You need to be prepared for that to happen. Be ready with a counteroffer or simply accept that response.

Your former spouse may also say yes, but in exchange for another date that belongs to you. If you want concessions from the other parent, you need to be willing to give some of your own. With a little give and take, you could find yourself having a joyous holiday season.

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