Co-parenting: How to Manage the First Christmas Without Dad or Mum

First Christmas Without Dad or Mum - 2houses

With divorce rates rising, many kids now experience Christmas without Dad or Mum. Many parents worry that Christmas with only one parent present will not be the same for their kids. If you are doing Christmas as a solo parent for the first time, here are some tips that can help.

How to Communicate With Kids About Christmas Without Dad or Mum

Many parents struggle with how to tell their child that they will be spending Christmas without Dad or Mum. However, it is very important to be upfront with children about Christmas plans. If you wait until Christmas is almost here to tell your child, they might be very disappointed. Let your kids know early about your co-parenting plans for Christmas.

Involve Dad or Mum If Possible

It might not be possible, or in fact desirable, for your kids to visit their Dad or Mum on Christmas Day. However, you can still include the absent parent. Arrange a Skype call so the kids can show off their new toys and wish Dad or Mum a merry Christmas. This is a great way to show kids that both their parents are thinking of them on this special day.

Make New Family Traditions

Sticking to the same Christmas routine you’ve always had might feel strange now Dad or Mum is absent. Instead of staring at the empty space around the dinner table, why not start a new family festive tradition? You could go to a restaurant for Christmas dinner or invite over friends or relatives to create a festive atmosphere. You could even take a trip away to make this holiday feel extra special.

Take the Time to Make Kids Feel Valued

If you are a busy single parent, it can be tough to give your kids all the time and attention they need. Sometimes, other priorities such as work have to come first. During the first Christmas without Dad or Mum, try to put other obligations on the back burner. This will allow you to spend time with your kids and reassure them that they are loved and valued. If possible, try to swap shifts at work so you can be with the kids as much as possible during this first co-parenting festive season.

Get Input From Kids

If you are worried about how to help your kids have a good time this Christmas, why not ask them what they want? Would they prefer a quiet Christmas at home with you, or a fun-filled adventure that breaks all the rules about how to celebrate? By giving kids input into the Christmas planning process, you can show them that you’re not only their parent but also their friend.

Get Advice From Others

If you know other separated families, you can ask them for advice about how to handle the first Christmas without Dad or Mum. Divorced parents can be a fantastic source of wisdom as they have been through the same challenges you face. Ask them for advice on creating new Christmas traditions and making the day as magical as possible for little ones.

Communicate With Your Co-Parent

Long before Christmas rolls around, make sure you and your co-parent are on the same page. If the kids are moving from one home to another over the festive period, you should both know exactly when pick-up or drop-off will take place. Using a co-parenting app such as 2houses can help to clarify plans to ensure Christmas is conflict-free.

How to Create Parenting Time Guidelines for the Summer

Summer Parenting Time Guidelines

One of the hardest parts about going through a divorce? Figuring out how to work through it in a healthy way that strengthens and builds your children, rather than the other way around.

The most vulnerable and unwilling participants in this journey, they’re the ones who feel the brunt of the impact when spouses can’t get along. However, there is a way to help mitigate conflict and establish order and routine.

Assuming you have shared custody, it all centers on setting firm parenting time guidelines.

In short, this is a pre-determined schedule that dictates the time that each parent has with the shared children. While you might have a schedule built upon their school calendar that works for most of the year, what happens when they get out for the summertime? This change in routine doesn’t have to throw your balancing act off-kilter.

Today, we’re sharing a few strategies you can use to establish parenting time guidelines that allow your children to soak up plenty of sunshine and family time this season.

Ready to learn more? Let’s jump in.

Determine the Summer Break Timeframe

Before you can get into the nitty-gritty of the summer visitation schedule, you and your ex will have to determine exactly when the summer schedule will begin and end.

Most parents choose to base this timeline off their children’s official school schedule. If you have this available, it’s wise to reference and use it, as this will pose as little disruption to their normal routine as possible.

If you go this route, you have two options:

  • Choose exact start and end dates for each summer
  • Choose general dates that extend to every summer

A schedule built around the first bullet might look like:

  • Summer break begins at 4:00 p.m. on May 29, 2020 (last day of school) and ends at 8:00 a.m. on September 7, 2020 (first day of school).

On the other hand, a schedule built around the second bullet might look like:

  • Summer break begins on the last Friday in May and ends on the first Monday in September.

Do you notice the difference? The first is more rigid while the other allows for some flexibility with dates. For instance, the first Monday in September 2020 is September 7, but the following year, it falls on September 6.

Whichever option you choose, be careful to avoid terms such as “the middle of the summer.” While you could do the calculations and determine the exact mid-point, that verbiage is vague and ambiguous. In fact, most people casually select July 4 as the mid-point of the summer although that isn’t always accurate.

When you’re a parent splitting your time with your children, you want the schedule to be as even and fair as possible. Rather than relying on paper-based calendars, try using online scheduling tools to create and share the schedule virtually.

That said, what are some ways you can creatively and effectively split your time during the summer? The good news is that without having to plan around school, you have more options than you would at any other time of the year.

Let’s take a look at a few approaches to try.

Swap Your Normal Schedule

Does your child currently live with mom during the week, with visits to dad’s house occurring every other weekend?

If so, consider swapping this schedule. That way, dad would have the child during the week and mom would have custody every other weekend. This is a simple way to give the other spouse a break and inject a little fun into a standard routine. In addition, by keeping the visits set at every other weekend, parents can plan weeklong vacations that spill into the next weekend without having to make a change to the schedule!

Create a Totally New Schedule

The residential schedule that you maintain throughout the year doesn’t have to be the same one that you keep during the summer! If both parents are flexible and agreeable to a change, why not consider creating an entirely new routine for a few months?

This can be any arrangement that works for everyone. For instance, you might establish a two weeks on/two weeks off schedule wherein one parent gets the children for two weeks at a time. Or, you could try a more intricate schedule, such as a 2-2-3 rotation.

Here, the kids will be with one parent for two days, then with the other parent for two days, and then back to the first parent to enjoy a three-day weekend. If you keep the same pattern going, the other parent will have the kids on the next three-day weekend.

While this setup can work if all parties are on the same page, keep in mind that all of the back-and-forth shuffling can be confusing and overwhelming for everyone involved, especially for small children. Longer spans of time together allow them to feel more settled and secure, so if possible, try to block off individual portions of time that are at least a week or longer.

Grant Full Summertime Custody to One Parent

Of course, another scheduling alternative is to allow one parent to exercise full custody during the pre-determined summer timeline. If this is the same parent that has the children the majority of the time during the rest of the year, it’s important to communicate this schedule early to make sure the extended timeline is a good fit.

Plan Around Family Vacations

Has one parent been busy planning an epic trip to Disneyworld in June while the other can’t wait to take the brood fly fishing in August? Though you’ll need to come up with another scheduling tactic to cover the remainder of the summer, you can begin by talking about those vacation plans.

As long as they don’t overlap or create a conflict, each parent can take the kids on the vacation of his or her choosing.

For instance, you might already have an every-weekend schedule in place for the summer, where the child visits dad every weekend. While that can work for most of May through September, you can block off a two-week section for mom only during July to make those Disneyworld memories. The same holds true for the fly fishing trip in August.

This will require maturity on both ends, as (based on the length of the vacation) it will likely require at least one parent to sacrifice previously scheduled time with the children.

You can also take a different approach while setting up your initial residential schedule that will cover the entire year. Instead of blocking off specific dates during the summer months for vacation, you can give each parent an allotment of days for such excursions.

For example, you might set the following precedences:

  • Dad can take up to 14 days of vacation with the children over the course of one year.
  • Mom can take up to 14 days of vacation with the children over the course of one year.

If you do this, make sure to set guidelines around notifications. For instance, the vacationing parent must inform the other parent at least 30 days in advance of each vacation. In turn, the other parent has up to five days to respond if the proposed getaway will present a conflict in his or her schedule.

Helpful Tips to Successfully Co-Parent This Summer

Specific schedules aside, how can you make sure that the summer timelines you’ve set for your ex will lead to the best outcomes for everyone in your family? Let’s take a look at a few steps you can take before that final school bell rings to get everyone on the same page.

Communicate and Plan Ahead

Communication is the cornerstone of every healthy marriage and every healthy divorce.

The more that you and your ex can talk about the months coming up, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to come to an agreement that works well for you both. Rather than avoiding the topic, go ahead and address it as soon as possible.

That way, you’re able to work around concerns such as vacations and family get-togethers, proactively scheduling your time to accommodate the things that matter to you. That way, there are minimal surprise events that suddenly pop up and change the whole family’s plans.

Talk with your ex and come to an agreement on how you’re going to divide your time with the children. Putting off the conversation or shrugging off its importance could result in a major amount of stress a few weeks down the road. Even if you don’t want to create a super-rigid schedule, you can at least establish a flexible one that has some form of structure.

Keep the Kids a Top Priority

As much as you’d love to be able to plan the summer of your dreams, keep in mind that this is one of the most magical times of the year for your children. Free from the stressors of school, they’re able to play outside, explore with friends and make the kinds of memories that last a lifetime.

That means it’s your duty to make the split schedule work as seamlessly as possible. To do so, include them in the conversation!

Talk to your kids and ask them what they would like to do this summer. Take their needs into account, including both younger children who are totally dependent on you and older ones who are more self-sufficient. Then, to the greatest extent possible, work with your ex to take everyone’s desires and wishes into consideration.

Encourage Memory-Making

If your ex wants to take the kids on an incredible cruise, don’t hold a grudge or try to get in the way of it. Remember who ultimately benefits from this trip: your children!

That said, encourage them to go and wish them well. Encourage your kids to have fun during their time away from you, so they can see that their happiness means more to you than your disagreements with your ex-spouse. Let them know that you want them to have a loving and healthy relationship with both of their parents, and you’re working to make sure that happens.

If they sense even a little tension or sadness on your part, kids can feel guilty and even hesitant to go on the trip. Reassure them that you love them and support them, and you can’t wait to hear all about the trip when they get back.

At the same time, be equally respectful when you’re the one booking the vacation.

Make sure that your spouse is fully up-to-date on all of the details of your itinerary so he or she knows where the kids will be at all times. Think of the details that you would want to know yourself, and make sure to include them! For instance, your ex should always know how to contact your child so don’t leave those details out!

A Note on Childcare

If both parents work full-time, the children will spend the majority of their summer days at daycare, camp or both. Decide ahead of time who is going to coordinate and organize those activities.

If possible, each parent can be responsible for picking the kids up and dropping them off at those locales when he or she has custody of them. If there are attendance costs to pay, decide ahead of time if and how those should be paid.

Establish Successful Parenting Time Guidelines This Summer

The summer is meant to be one of the most laidback and enjoyable times of the year. If you’re a divorced or separated parent, however, it can quickly turn into one of the most stressful ones.

To kick the unknowns to the curb, schedule parenting time guidelines that leave no question as to how your children will split their time off. The earlier you can take this step, the more pleasant the following months will be!

Are you a single parent working to help your children grow accustomed to splitting their time between two homes? We know how difficult that can be, and we’re here to help.

On our site, you’ll find myriad resources designed to help ease this transition, including informative articles, an online scheduling tool, a finance management system, a messaging tool and more. Register for an account today to get started!

Divorce and Children: 4 Signs You Can’t Ignore

divorce and children

The fact that divorce is super common isn’t comforting when your family is going through it. At least as one of the adults, you have some control over what’s happening. For your kids, watching you and your partner split up – even if the divorce is amicable, or ends a really contentious marriage – is probably at least a little traumatic.

So it’s totally normal to notice some changes in your kids during the months following a divorce. You’re dealing with a seismic shift in your own life, so things are changing for you too. But this can be a really scary and anxious time for children of all ages, and they’re extra vulnerable right after a divorce. Be on the lookout for these four potentially serious warning signs.

Their Behavior is Regressing

Regression just means that a kid is returning to a previous stage of development and behaving “younger” than they are. For example, a 4-year-old who has been potty trained for a year might regress and start having toilet accidents after her parents divorce. A child might also return to sucking his thumb or needing to sleep with a nightlight after having previously given up those behaviors.

If your child displays some regression, it could be a sign that she feels anxious and wants to go back to an earlier time when she felt safer. Offering plenty of affection and support, and not pushing her to “grow back up” too quickly, should help your child eventually feel ready to progress again. But if the regression lasts for more than a month or is very severe, contact your pediatrician.

They’re Unusually Depressed or Anxious

Feeling sad and nervous is unfortunately par for the course when it comes to divorce and children. This event will inevitably change things, and kids are rarely happy about that.

Depression and anxiety that interferes with your child’s ability to function, however, isn’t normal. For example, a severely depressed child might sleep much more than usual, seem disinterested in things he used to love and let his grades slip. An anxious kid might be unusually clingy, throw temper tantrums and become resistant about going to school. Take action if you notice behavior that could have a lasting negative impact on his health, friendships or academic career.

They’re Hurting Themselves

Kids who are in emotional turmoil sometimes express that pain by hurting themselves. Take seriously any signs of self-harm. These may include a child cutting, scratching or picking at her skin; burning herself; disordered eating (restricting food intake, binging and/or purging) and, in older children, drug and alcohol use. Immediately consult a school psychologist and your pediatrician if you notice signs of self-harm.

Another thing to watch for with divorce and children is faked or exaggerated illnesses or injuries. Sometimes a kid who wants to bring her divorced parents back together, or needs more attention than she’s getting, will try this ploy. That doesn’t mean you should assume every injury is fake, of course – but keep it in mind.

They’re Growing Up Too Fast

Having your child step up and help you more might sound like a dream, but some kids feel overly responsible for their parents after a divorce. Your child might try to fill in for the absent parent to make you happy or out of worry that the household will fall apart without a second adult around. Some newly divorced parents make the mistake of leaning too heavily on their kids for support, treating them like therapists or friends instead of children.

Divorce is already hard enough. Don’t let your child feel responsible for taking care of you. By all means, encourage your kids to do age-appropriate chores and take on tasks that they can manage! Just be careful to make sure they know that you’re the adult and will take care of things so they can still focus on being kids.