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How co-parents can minimize holiday stress for children

If you're facing your first holiday season as a separated or divorced parent, you're going to experience more than the usual amount of holiday stress. However, your children shouldn't. They should look back on this Christmas fondly rather than as the nightmare Christmas after their parents split up. Here are some simple ways to help make this happen for your children.

Be clear about the holiday parenting plan -- and stick to it.

If you already have a custody agreement in place, a holiday schedule should be included. If you don't, you need to agree on a schedule for this year. Make sure your kids know the schedule. That way, they can feel secure about where they'll be on what days. It's best if both parents have a calendar for the kids in their homes where they can easily see which parent they're with each day. Help them create a special holiday calendar that includes special events and trips.

Try not to make changes unless they're necessary. Kids are adaptable. However, it's important for them to know they can expect their parents to stick to the schedule they've worked out.

Coordinate your plans with your co-parent.

This time of year may require more communication with your co-parent than you'd prefer. However, it's necessary if you don't want to risk buying duplicate gifts and two different trips to see Mary Poppins Returns or the latest Spider-Man movie (although your kids might not object to that). Remember that your goal is to make the holidays special for your kids.

Don't make your kids feel guilty for not being with you.

Accept the fact that you're going to be spending part of the holidays without your children. Don't make your kids feel bad about not being with you -- even if you're alone on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve. Encourage them to enjoy their time with their other parent and share their experiences with you. If you make plans to be with friends, family or by yourself doing something you enjoy, you'll be less tempted to feel sorry for yourself or want sympathy from your kids.

After the holidays, if you believe that you and your co-parent need to modify your custody schedule, your attorney can work with you to help make next year go more smoothly.

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