The holidays can be extremely difficult after a divorce – and Thanksgiving is the first big date that kicks off two months of festivities that can be difficult for newly separated couples. Traditions that you’ve had for years might come to an end and if you have shared custody, you will probably not be able to spend every special moment with your children. You may be haunted by memories from past holidays – or fearful of what the future may bring.

Successfully Sharing Custody over the Thanksgiving Holiday

There is no right way to share custody on Thanksgiving – the important lesson to learn is that all families are different and that different arrangements work for different people. One family may split up Thanksgiving Day itself, while others may trade off who gets the kids on Thanksgiving year by year. Another family may split up the five-day Thanksgiving break or celebrate the day itself twice over the long weekend. Although it is never easy, families across the country have found ways to celebrate even when under two roofs.

Here are some potential sitautions to consider:

  •  Alternate by year – with one spouse getting the kids for Thanksgiving (but not Christmas) every other year and vice versa.
  • Split the long weekend. Most children get a five-day vacation from school – split the time between parents if you live close enough for a mid-holiday drop-off.
  • Consider spending Thanksgiving together. If you are on amicable terms with your ex, it may be possible to spend the day together as a family as long as your children understand that you are co-parenting and not getting back together.
  • Consider celebrating Thanksgiving twice. It’s okay to bend the rules – if you won’t have the kids on Thanksgiving proper, consider preparing a feast and being thankful on the weekend before or the weekend after the actual holiday.

Remember: there is no wrong way to celebrate the holidays. If it works for your family, it works.

Start New Traditions and Reach out to other Family

While it is absolutely normal to mourn your lost traditions, this may be a great time to start a new tradition – or to embrace the untraditional. Realize that just as your family no longer looks like a sitcom family, the holidays do not have to be a Norman Rockwell picture. If you will be spending Thanksgiving or Christmas Day with your kids, ask them what they might like to do. If you are without your children on any given holiday, reach out to family and friends. You might be surprised how happy they are to welcome you into their traditions.

Communicate with Your Ex to Avoid Common Visitation Issues

Your ex-spouse may be the last person you want to hear from during the holidays, but communication will be key to navigating the holidays successfully. Before the kids are out of school, be sure that you have an agreed-upon custody plan that you are both happy with. Be sure to call and send pictures if you have the kids. If you don’t have the kids, make it clear that it would be nice to hear from them. After the holidays and winter break, talk with your ex (and possibly your older children) about what worked and what didn’t before planning for next year.

Don’t feel like a failure if your first holiday season after your divorce has sad moments or isn’t a success. Know that you are still mourning and in transition, and know that it will get better every year.

Contact an Experienced Seattle Child Custody Attorney

Do you need the assistance of a Washington State child custody attorney or Bellevue divorce lawyer? Call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today to schedule a consultation: 425-460-0550.

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