8 Holiday Tips for Parents Who Share Custody

Make the Most of Your Allotted Holiday Parenting Time

The holidays can be a difficult time, especially for newly single parents who are just getting used to an untested shared child custody schedule. As you gear up for holiday time this year, use the following tips to make the days ahead more bearable:

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Decide What Matters Most to You

Decide which parts of the holiday season matter most to you. Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Before you make any decisions about your holiday parenting schedule, take some time to think about what's most important to you. For some parents, Christmas morning is the 'biggie,' while for others the marquee holiday is Thanksgiving or the kids' birthdays. Certainly, knowing what you want gives you a starting place for negotiating with your ex. It also helps to think about what you want to get out of the holiday time you'll be spending with your kids, from ensuring that they get to see their cousins at various family gatherings to baking your favorite holiday goodies. 

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Be Open to Making a Few Compromises

Negotiate a compromise with your ex about your holiday schedule. Sam Edwards/Getty Images

Remember that reaching a compromise with your ex means being willing to give something up. So it helps to approach the process with the expectation that you're not going to get everything that you want. Instead, focus on negotiating for a couple of the holiday events that are most important to you.

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Determine Your Holiday Parenting Time Schedule.

Consider new ways to tap into your kids' enthusiasm. JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Armed with what you want and what you're willing to give up, you're ready to talk with your ex about defining your actual holiday parenting plan. Try to do this early in the holiday season so that the rest of your family can make plans, too.

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Be Creative

Create your own holiday traditions with your kids. Photo © Yellow Dog Productions/Getty Images

Sharing the holidays with your ex may mean that you'll have to decorate the tree on a night other than Christmas Eve, or invite your extended family over on the 18th for a pre-holiday gift exchange. While these compromises won't always be convenient, they can be a means to getting some of what you want -- like spending time together, even if it's not on 'the' day.

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Create New Holiday Traditions

Use your holiday parenting time to make some fun crafts like this red and white garland. Sydney Bourne/Getty Images

Splitting holiday time with your ex makes carving out some time for your favorite traditions even more important. So put things like decorating for the holidays, going caroling, baking Christmas cookies, and making ornaments on your calendar, too. This way, you'll be sure to set aside time for enjoying them!

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Include Your Ex Once in a While

Include your ex on some holiday traditions, like baking holiday cookies. Denkou Images/Getty Images

If you're trying to create a better relationship with your ex, inviting him or her to join you for the occasional holiday celebration can go a long way. Just be sure that you're clear with your kids about your intentions, so that no one gets confused or starts to think you could be getting back together.

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Make Time for Extended Family, Too

Make time for seeing extended family during the holidays, too. Chris Ryan/Getty Images

Make sure you schedule some time for your kids to spend with your extended family during the holidays, as well. This may require some direct, honest conversations with your parents or siblings about your needs and the limitations of sharing holiday time with your ex. If possible, initiate those conversations soon after you firm up plans with your ex, so everyone has time to make arrangements.

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Take Advantage of Some Holiday 'Me Time'

Make time for yourself during the holidays, too. Mark Edward Atkinson/Tracey Lee/Getty Images

Taking care of yourself is even more important during the holidays. So make sure you're getting enough sleep and eating well -- two habits that will boost your ability to handle the stress as it comes. And while your kids are off spending time with your ex, use your free time to doing something you enjoy. For example, make plans with friends you haven't seen in a while or stay in and watch a movie. Even an evening of wrapping gifts can feel luxurious!