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Tips for sharing custody during the holidays

If this is your first holiday season since your divorce, you and your co-parent will likely need to do some extra planning to help things go as smoothly as possible as you each make plans to spend time with your kids. Extra patience is also a requirement. Things aren't going to go perfectly, and there may be some misunderstandings and miscommunication.

Flexibility is often necessary. Even if your co-parent seems to have done something to intentionally aggravate or inconvenience you, don't respond in kind. That will only keep the pattern going and -- most of all -- end up hurting the kids.

If your custody agreement is in place, you've likely detailed how you're going to share custody during the kids' winter break and especially around the holidays themselves. If you haven't yet completed your custody agreement, you can use this holiday season to develop a blueprint of what works best for your family.

Kids want to know what their holiday schedule will be. Therefore, it's essential to let your kids know what the schedule is and to stick to it.

Prepare yourself as well. If you won't have the kids on Christmas, make plans to do something special before or after with them. Then make plans for yourself for the days when you won't be with them. Whether it's a visit with family, a day out with some friends or quiet time for some binge-watching your favorite streaming TV show, if you have something to look forward to, you're less likely to feel sad and make your kids feel guilty.

Remember that your kids can and should have great holiday memories even after divorce. Since they won't be having their celebrations with their parents together, they'll likely want to share what they've done with their other parent with you -- and vice versa. Encourage them to share their photos and videos, to show you their presents and tell you all about their time with their other parent without making you angry or sad.

After the holidays are over, you and your co-parent can better work to incorporate the winter holidays into your custody and visitation agreement. If you already have an agreement in place, you may want to add detail to it or modify it based on your experience. Your attorney can work with you to seek the arrangement you believe will be in the kids' best interests.

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