It’s official. Christmas Season has begun. Target, Kmart, and Costco (among others) have already started displaying Christmas decorations. Before Thanksgiving.
Before Halloween! While that kind of merchandising behavior makes me want to boycott shopping entirely for the next few months (like that is ever going to happen!), on some level, the stores actually have it right.
If you want a peaceful holiday it helps to plan ahead. The same thing is true for your holiday parenting schedule.
If you are one of those lucky people who already has a holiday parenting schedule that is set in stone and working well, God Bless! That’s fabulous! But, if your holiday parenting schedule isn’t working, or you want to change it, or you don’t have a holiday parenting schedule set yet because your divorce isn’t finalized, you need to get one now!
Don’t believe me? Here are 5 reasons why getting a jump on your holiday parenting schedule makes sense:
1. Courts are busy. If you have ever tried to get anything done in court, you know what a frustrating process it can be. It takes time to get your lawyer to draft a motion. Then it takes time to get the motion scheduled. Then the other side is entitled to have time to respond to the motion. Then you have to get a hearing date. Depending upon where you live, this whole process can take weeks or months. If you wait too long, you will have missed the holiday.
If you think it is okay to wait because you can always bring your motion as “an emergency” think again. There is a judge in Cook County, Illinois, who is famous for saying to lawyers who run into his courtroom with emergency motions regarding holiday parenting time in the week before Christmas, “Counsel, Christmas is December 25th every year. This is not an emergency. Motion denied.” The moral of the story: Get your holiday parenting issues resolved early.
2. The sooner you start, the more leverage you have. As a mediator, I can tell you without question that it is easier to negotiate two issues than it is to negotiate one. Why? Because you have more to bargain with.
Since Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years all fall within the same nine-week period, negotiating holiday parenting early gives you the luxury of having multiple holidays that you can play with. It is much easier to ask your ex to give you more time at Christmas if you can give him more time at Thanksgiving. If you wait until the only holiday left is New Years Day, negotiating becomes infinitely harder.
3. Desperation makes for bad bargaining. The hardest time to negotiate is when your back is against a wall. If you really, really want to trade Christmas Eve for Christmas Day this year, but you wait until December 23 to start negotiating with your ex, you will put yourself in an impossible position. Either you won’t get what you want, or you will have to give your ex the sun, the moon, and the stars to get it.
Waiting to negotiate until you are desperate also makes it hard to think. The more options you come up with before you start bargaining, the greater your chances of finding an option that your ex will go for. The problem is that it is really tough to brainstorm options when you are in a complete panic. Negotiating early gives you more time to think, more time to plan, and more time to work things out.
4. Once holiday plans are made, they are harder to change. When you want to get your grandparents, parents, siblings and other extended family members to all be in the same place at the same time, you have to plan ahead. Once you make plans, and everyone puts dates in their calendars, it becomes virtually impossible to change them. It is even worse when you are trying to make plans for blended families.
The best chance you have for negotiating the holiday parenting schedule you want is if you do it long before your ex has had his entire extended family plan their holiday celebration around the date when he has the kids. Even if he would have been okay trading days with you before that, he is not going to want to look like a schmuck in front of his entire family once everyone’s plans have been made.
5. Setting the schedule well in advance reduces everyone’s anxiety. Bouncing back and forth between households is hard on kids. Not knowing where they will be on any particular holiday – especially one that is important to them – is even harder. The sooner you can tell the kids what their schedule for the holidays will be, the more you put their mind at ease and allow them to be able to relax and enjoy the holiday.
Holidays can be stressful times for everyone. Not knowing for sure where your kids are going to be, when they are going to be with you, and when they are going to be with your ex, only adds to the stress. One of the best things about setting your holiday parenting schedule long before the holidays begin is that, when you do, everyone has a much happier holiday!
If it is not just the holidays, but your divorce itself, that is stressing you out, check out Karen Covy’s blog. It is full of useful tips and free information that can help make your divorce a little less crazy. CLICK HERE to check it out.
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