The holidays are approaching and while the holidays are an exciting time, they often come with lots of obligations, planning and coordinating. For those who are co-parenting there is an extra layer of planning to ensure your kids get to enjoy time with both parents and extended family.

Here are some tips for making the holiday period go smoothly:

Plan Ahead

The holidays happen at the same time every year and we know they are coming! So, it should be easy to plan ahead, but there are always day-to-day things that come up and planning can get pushed to the side. Discussing in October or November when the kids are going to be with each parent over the holidays, rather than waiting for December to roll around to start making plans, can really ease stress, both for you and your kids.

If there is going to be travel around the holidays, it can become extra important to pre-plan and give the other parent as much notice as possible. This ensures that the parents have enough time to discuss the details of the trip, how to plan for the non-travelling parent’s time with the kids over the holidays and get any necessary travel authorizations in place.

Include Details in a Separation Agreement

Some parents include in their Separation Agreement the details about how holiday time with their kids will be shared. This can be really helpful for taking at least some of the stress out of planning for the holidays.

In some Agreements, just the basic details like who will have the kids on which dates are included. Other Agreements are more specific about time and place of pickups and drop offs on particular days. Depending on the level and ease of communication between you, more or less detail can be added.

If you don’t have a Separation Agreement or yours doesn’t include as much detail as you think might be helpful, consider talking to your co-parent about getting some plans in writing. Here are some things to consider for an Agreement regarding holiday time:

  • How will the winter break from school be dealt with? Will it follow the regular parenting schedule or be shared differently?
  • How will the dates surrounding the important holiday in your family be shared? Does one side of the family celebrate on a specific date and the other side of the family celebrate on a different date? In that case, maybe the schedule can be set for the ongoing future. Or, does each side of the family like to celebrate on the same day? If that’s the case, many parents choose to alternate who has care of the children on that date each year.
  • Will there be specifics times and places for the exchanges during the holidays?
  • How much notice needs to be given if a parent wishes to travel with the children over the holidays?


While this one may seem obvious, it’s likely the most important. Communicating with your co-parent will help both parents and the kids get through the holidays (and all other times) as easily as possible. Keeping the kids in the loop about the plans will also help to reduce any anxiety they might have around transitions between homes.

Of course, communication should be directly between co-parents so that the kids don’t become the messenger. Communication can be over the phone, in person or in writing, depending on the level of conflict between the parents.

Be Flexible

Because the holidays are an important time of year for many families, both parents want special time with their kids or to travel with them over that time. Remember that it’s important for your children to have time with both their parents and extended family where possible when making holiday plans. And, sometimes one parent is the one that wants to travel in a given year and will need permission from the other parent. It could be the other parent in another year so being reasonable and flexible with your co-parent will engender cooperation.

These tips apply for all holidays, regardless of the holiday you are celebrating and what time of year it is – plan ahead, include details in your Separation Agreement, communicate, and be flexible!

For more tips around holidays, check out our other blog posts:

Happy very early holidays!

kelly riediger image smallBy Kelly Riediger

If you are interested in learning more about collaborative law or mediation, contact me today at