Handling Holiday Hassles

The holidays are a special time for children. As a parent you play an important role in shaping the memories your child will develop. Bring out the best in you and your child during the holiday season, by using these strategies:

Deciding how your children will spend holidays can be difficult. Make a list of all holidays and other special occasions. Consider a number of options for celebrating these days:

  • Alternate on an odd-year and even-year basis
  • Split extended holidays in half
  • Celebrate certain holidays twice
  • Assign same holidays to the same parent every year
  • Joint celebrations, if possible, with low-stress
  • Choose schedule annually, giving one parent's request priority even years and the other parent's request priority in odd years

Remember the focus of holidays should be the enjoyment for children…not competition between parents.

Source: Child Custody: Building Parenting Agreements that Work, 2nd edition by Mimi Lyster.

Practical Planning Suggestions

Read your parenting plan and update your calendar. What do you have in writing about the schedule for these holidays or special days?

If your parenting plan is not detailed enough, it's time to try to work things out. Before you talk things over with the other parent, get some idea of what you want yourself, then think about other alternatives you might accept. Prepare to have to negotiate some of the details. Agreement is possible if you are both willing to be flexible and coordinating arrangements.

When there is conflict between parents, it is essential to have a specific holiday schedule for the children to reduce their stress during the holidays. Setting the schedule in advance helps parents gain control over their individual plans.

If you are having difficulty reaching a decision with the other parent regarding the holidays, consider some options through Family Court Services such as Mediation or Arbitration. If you are interested in these services please call us at 816-736-8400. Please allow two to three weeks for services to be arranged.


  1. Try to plan holiday times well ahead. Three to six months notice is not too much time, especially if extensive travel is involved.
  2. Consider your hopes for the holiday or the season - the times with and without the children and transportation. Have several versions, all acceptable to you.
  3. Present these alternatives to the other parent. (If you don't communicate well use e-mail.) It's very important to give the other parent time to think about your proposals and to respond.
  4. If you talk in person or by phone, follow up your understanding of the conversation with a brief and informal note of confirmation.
  5. Be very specific when making plans…dates, times, places, clothing needs, and transportation arrangements all need to be considered.
  6. This is a time to start new traditions so be creative. Your children will never experience holidays "the way they used to be" again. Remember spontaneous times together can be as rewarding as scheduled activities.
  7. Commit yourself to seeing that your children have scheduled time with both parents.

Source: Mom's House, Dad's House: Making Two Homes for Your Child by Isolina Ricci.

Child Visitation Hotline (816) 736-8402