Father and Child Decorating for the HolidaysThe holidays are supposed to be a happy time for families to come together, but the mood may change after a Washington state divorce. Divorced parents often have fights over Christmas, Thanksgiving, or New Year plans—especially if it means one parent will spend an entire holiday without their children.

The good news is that there is no one-size-fits-all plan for sharing the holidays. Some couples choose the every-other-year method to trade holidays, some opt to trade children halfway through the special day, and even more spend the day together as a family. A cool head and willingness to compromise are the keys to finding a good holiday plan.

Parenting Plan Solutions for Christmas and Special Holidays

You should understand that no matter what plan you make, you will not be able to please everyone. Remember that each holiday is a learning experience—if something doesn’t go well this year, you can make it better the next.

When coming up with holiday gathering arrangements, a few key factors can help you cope with disappointment and celebrate the day without regret. Be sure to consider concerns involving:

Your Kids

Young children may worry about spending Christmas Eve in a different home, while teens may have their own ideas about where they want to spend the holiday. When talking about your children’s preferences, it helps to consider the reasons behind them. For example, if a child wants to see both parents on the same day, you might be able to have a family breakfast or dinner without spending the entire day together. If you love seeing your kids’ faces when opening presents, you may be able to stay for an hour on Christmas morning or give them their gifts from you on Christmas Eve.

Elderly and Extended Family

Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents who typically spend festive days with your kids are likely to be disappointed if plans change. If the children aren’t going to visit their relatives on the holiday itself, you may want to make plans before or after the date to spend time with the extended family. The age and health of some relatives could also impact your holiday plans.

Travel Time

If you and your ex-spouse live relatively close to one another, there’s no limit on how one holiday may be divided. For example, children may sleep overnight at one parent’s house on Christmas Eve and be picked up on Christmas Day after lunch. However, splitting holidays between state lines or going on faraway trips gives you less flexibility. Be sure to estimate the time it will take to transport the kids, who will feed them, and how tired they may be after each proposed destination.


Relatives may have their own ideas about where the children should spend the holidays, but it’s not a good idea to badmouth or pin the blame on an ex-spouse. Once you’ve settled on a plan, present it to your kids and any interested relatives as a united front. Focus on the positives at each venue and make the transition between the two houses as calm and friendly as possible.

Your Own Needs

Whether you have the kids for all, part, or none of the holiday, you need to build in some time for yourself. If you’re spending the morning or evening alone, plan some activities with family or friends or put some extra treats in the fridge just for you. If you know another single parent, consider organizing an event like a movie night or volunteering in a soup kitchen. If you have plans in place, you’re less likely to feel lonely or upset.

Get Advice From a Washington State Divorce Attorney

No matter your plans, it’s always better to make them as far in advance as possible. Last-minute changes can lead to resentment and extra stress at a time when tensions are already high.

At The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, we do everything we can to ease the stress of your divorce and give you the resources you need to move on with your life. Call us at 425-460-0550 for a personalized assessment of your case, or learn more in our free guide, 9 Urban Myths about Divorce That Can Hurt You.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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