Thanksgiving and Parenting Time

Norman Rockwell PhotoDivorced parents often find it challenging to make plans for the Thanksgiving holiday. They want their children to enjoy the tradition they have always associated with the celebration, but the facts are, things have changed. The old ways for handling holidays no longer work for most people who are dealing with the new family structure.

The first step: check your court-ordered parenting plan. The plan is controlling and if it spells out specifically how the time will be divided, you must comply with the order. If the court order leaves it open for you to arrange with the other parent how the holiday will be divided, some suggestions from parents who have risen to the challenge may be helpful.

  1. First and foremost keep in mind what is in the best interest of the children. Consider what arrangements will best meet their needs. Do this without putting them in the position of choosing between parents.
  2. Many parents alternate holidays annually. One year the children spend Thanksgiving with one parent. The next year, with the other parent.
  3. Keep in mind that children are not as tied to a specific day or date as adults are. Children may enjoy two Thanksgiving dinners on two separate days. One parent can arrange to have the traditional dinner on Thanksgiving Day. The other parent can set aside another day over the Thanksgiving weekend holiday to celebrate.
  4. When discussing with your children how the holiday will be spent, focus on the time you will spend with them, not on the time they will spend away from you.
  5. Develop new traditions instead of trying to replicate the old ones. Spend the day with your children serving Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter or delivering dinners to shut-ins.
  6. Do not compete with the other parent. Focus on the children and encourage them to enjoy the time with each parent.
  7. In communication with the other parent and the children, be sure the arrangements are clear as to what the holiday week-end plans entail. Specifically, what day and time will the children go from one place to the other and which parent will be dropping off and picking up.
  8. If the children spend the entire Thanksgiving holiday week-end with one parent, arrangements may be made for them to “visit” the other parent by Skype.

Some parents put aside their differences for the day and spend it together with their children. Just be sure that if you try this, you agree not to disagree or argue so that you do not end up spoiling the holiday for your children.