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How to share the load over the holidays when you co-parent

Bella Heim

Bella Heim

Bella is a mummy of three, writer, and photographer. She's not afraid to admit that she relies on a little red wine to keep the chaos of motherhood at bay. When she's not dodging toys and dirty diapers, you'll find her documenting the wild and wonderful ride of parenthood, and adding a splash of inspiration, creativity, and a healthy dose of mum humour along the way.
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 8 mins read
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Ever find yourself staring down the school holidays or festive seasons with a twinge of dread, wondering how on earth you’re going to juggle the holiday planning amidst the intricacies of co-parenting?

Don’t sweat it, you’re not alone! We get it, when you’re co-parenting, it’s just not as straightforward as setting a date and expecting everyone to show up with a smile on their face, all in their best dress.

Yeah, navigating this co-parenting landscape requires a tad more finesse.

When the holidays roll around, one of the biggest questions co-parents have is whether they should spend them together. It’s a valid question and, like a complicated dance routine, the answer varies based on your unique circumstances.

If you and your ex have a harmonious relationship, and it won’t cause any undue stress or tension, then by all means, have a great time together! Sharing the holidays can make it feel more like a family affair for the kiddos. However, if spending time together makes you feel like a turkey about to be roasted, then it might be best to stick to separating everything. The most important thing is to prioritise the well-being of your children above all else.

Here are a few steps to get you started:

Create a holiday schedule: Start by drafting a detailed holiday schedule. This can include which parent the kids will stay with on which days, planned outings, and special events. Share this schedule with your ex and your kids to make sure everyone is on the same page. Having a visual representation can help everyone feel more secure about the upcoming changes.

Share the responsibility: You don’t have to do everything yourself. Share the responsibilities with your co-parent. This could mean one parent takes care of outdoor activities while the other handles indoor crafts, or one cooks while the other assists the kids with their holiday homework.

Meal prep is your friend: I swear the school holidays is actually a trap to test parents’ limits. There are just so much to be done, and meals are just one that is enough to give you headaches. If you are both super busy, cooking every meal from scratch might not be feasible. Consider prepping meals in advance. Dedicate a day for cooking several dishes that you can freeze and easily reheat throughout the week. This will save you time and stress, and ensure you have healthy meals ready to go.

But don’t shy away from getting your children involved in meal preparation. Not only will this help lighten your load, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity to teach them some cooking skills.

Take turns: If possible, consider taking turns with your co-parent to have some child-free time. This could be just a few hours to relax or run errands, but it can make a significant difference in reducing stress.

Consider a holiday camp: If it’s within your budget, consider enrolling your children in a holiday camp. These programs can provide great opportunities for your kids to learn new skills, make friends, and stay active during the school holidays, giving you some much-needed downtime.

Stay flexible: Remember, plans may change, and that’s okay. Be flexible and open to adjustments. The goal is to create a loving, fun, and stress-free environment for your children during the holidays.

Now, let’s talk about splitting festive holidays with divorced/separated parents. You might be wondering how to divvy up the festivities in a way that’s fair and balanced.

Plan ahead: Like a scrumptious gingerbread house, a good festive holiday plan needs a solid foundation just like all other holidays. Sit down with your co-parent and map out the holidays well in advance. This will help you avoid any last-minute panic or confusion.

Alternate years: One way to slice the holiday pie is to alternate years. This means that, for example, your kids might spend Christmas holidays with you one year and with your ex the next.

Split the day: If you live close enough, another option is to divide the holiday in half. The kids could spend the morning with one parent and the afternoon with the other. This way, they get to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Create new traditions: One thing to keep in mind, the essence of the holidays is all about creating those treasured memories. If the previous traditions feel a bit like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole with your new family structure, it’s the perfect time to get creative and stir up some brand new ones! Maybe you could think about celebrating on alternate days or inventing distinct celebrations that your kiddos will hold dear. After all, for the little ones, it’s less about the date on the calendar and more about the heartwarming memories they collect – those are the true holiday gifts that keep on giving.

How do you split holidays with divorced parents?

So, what about divorced/separated parents celebrating holidays together? As I mentioned earlier, this can be a delightful treat if you’re on good terms with your ex.

But if the thought of spending the holidays together sends shivers down your spine, and make you want to run for the hills and never return, it’s okay to go your separate ways. The most important thing is to make sure your kiddos feel loved and supported, no matter how you choose to celebrate.

So, school holidays are easier to tackle, but how on earth do you share big ones like Christmas?  You can still jingle all the way in your best outfit by following these tips:

Be flexible: When it comes to co-parenting, flexibility is the gift that keeps on giving. Be open to adjusting your plans and accommodating your ex’s schedule. This will ensure that your kids have a stress-free holiday experience.

Prioritise the kids: It’s easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the season, but remember, the holidays are about making magical memories for your kids. Focus on their happiness and try to put aside any lingering negative feelings towards your ex.

Communicate clearly: Like a well-written Christmas card, think clear communication. Be upfront with your ex about your plans and expectations for the holidays. This will help avoid any misunderstandings or hurt feelings.

Embrace the joy of giving: Christmas is all about giving, and that doesn’t just mean presents under the tree. Give your children the gift of a peaceful and happy holiday season by cooperating with your ex and being open to compromise. Remember, your kids’ happiness should be the guiding star in your co-parenting journey.

Make new memories: Don’t be afraid to start new traditions or put your own spin on old ones. Create special moments that your kids will remember fondly for years to come. This could be something as simple as baking cookies together or watching a favourite holiday movie.

Keep the lines of communication open: Encourage your children to share their feelings and thoughts about the holidays with both parents. This will help them feel heard and supported, and it will also give you valuable insights into their needs and wishes.

Co-parenting during the holidays can feel like trying to assemble a toy without instructions, that’s why we are lucky that there are so many resources and support networks available. Go out there and start connecting with other co-parents, either online or in your local community. They can provide advice, share their experiences, and offer a much-needed sense of camaraderie during challenging times.

And don’t forget self-care!

Yes, you read it right! Amid the flurry of meal planning, and schedule organising, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Schedule some downtime to unwind, whether it’s a quiet cuppa, a brisk walk in the park, or even a few minutes of meditation.

One more handy tip – consider seeking professional guidance if necessary. If you and your co-parent are struggling to reach an agreement, a mediator or family counselor could be a valuable ally. They can help you iron out any disagreements and work towards a holiday schedule that’s fair and beneficial for everyone involved.

And I know holidays can stir a myriad of emotions (no matter if it’s just school holidays or Christmas). The holiday season can often bring up feelings of nostalgia and longing for past traditions. It’s completely normal to feel a sense of loss or sadness. And that’s okay. It’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed, so cut yourself some slack. You’re doing a fantastic job.

But remember, it’s also an opportunity to create new traditions and make new memories. It’s a chance to redefine what the holidays mean to you and your family.

So whether you’re stringing up lights, or simply huddled together watching an old movie, you’re going to make the holidays magical, memorable, and truly special for your little ones.

And when they look back on these moments, they’ll remember not just the celebrations, but also the incredible parents who made it all possible.

Related Articles

10 tips for successfully managing co-parenting
CO-Parenting 101: A guide to sharing responsibilities with a newborn
12 Empowering tips for parents coping with divorce & separation

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