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Tips for spending the holidays as a divorced parent

While the holiday season can be great for family time, it is also bound to introduce some stresses for divorced parents and their children.

For example, what if your ex lives across the country and wants your child to stay two extra days? Or, what if you want to spend Christmas with your children, but your ex has them that day? Here are a few tips to help you get through the holidays as a divorced parent.

Refer to the parenting plan

Your first stop is the parenting plan that you and your ex drew up. Perhaps it calls for alternating holidays with one parent, for separate celebrations on each holiday, or something else. Whatever the case, this plan is where you begin, even if you and your ex have not followed it strictly for a while. Make sure you know what you are entitled to before you make any requests of your ex or consider any accommodations he or she asks for. If you realize that the plan needs updating, you can get the ball rolling on that as soon as possible.

Approach your ex with a businesslike but friendly tone if you are requesting something that deviates from the parenting plan. Make the offer fair by being willing to give up something in exchange, and explain how your idea could be in the children's best interests.

Remain flexible

Flexibility is important throughout the year, including on holidays. In fact, it is in your best interest to be flexible because your ex may return the favor when you need it. Your parenting plan may say one thing, but perhaps your ex wants to travel with your child-and your child wants the trip, too. Missing a special day with your child can be difficult, but your options include asking for an extra holiday later in the year. Remember to keep the focus on your children's happiness.

Approach joint holidays with caution

If you are a lucky person who is on friendly terms with your ex, congratulations. A joint holiday celebration may be possible-and even fun. However, if you believe that clashes are all but inevitable, separate celebrations may be ideal. Even when the extent of conflicts might be tension (no arguments, no outward anger), separate is probably still better. If you and your ex do decide to go the joint route, avoid alcohol and lay out the where, when, who, how, and other logistical issues in advance.

The holidays are a time when children need their parents to be extra flexible with each other. An attorney can help you draw up or modify parenting plans if necessary.

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