Holiday Traditions Co-Parents Can Celebrate Together, Yet Apart

Oh, the post-divorce holiday season. You knew it would be something you’d eventually have to face, and now, it has crept up on you. And here you are, knowing that all the things you loved about the holidays will now be tinged with awkwardness and even a bit of sadness. 

Things won’t be the same, but with some communication, flexibility, and creativity, you can still navigate the holiday magic while respecting everyone’s feelings and boundaries. 

Gift giving

You might feel tempted to outdo your ex with presents the first year after your divorce. But it isn’t about who gives the best gifts – it’s about the kids. Set a budget with your ex, and coordinate who will give what so your kids feel mutual love, not some push-and-pull one-upmanship from their parents. 

If you’re gifting separately, you can make sure you don’t duplicate gifts by keeping a combined spreadsheet where all gifts are listed. A shared spreadsheet can also be helpful for cost-sharing if you plan to give shared gifts. If this level of sharing isn’t comfortable quite yet, a simple text exchange can work, too. 

Helping your children buy gifts for your ex can go a long way toward extending a post-divorce olive branch. It’s a way to show the kids that, despite your differences, you still care for and respect your ex-spouse.

Goodie swapping and crafting

Your ex always loved those enormous batches of Christmas cookies you made for cookie exchanges and gifts. And you’re going to be making them anyway, so why not make some extra to send with the kids’ next visit? 

Those handmade paper chains that the cats rip apart every year? Send some of these over as well. 

Nothing prevents you from being cordially jolly at this time of year, and your kids will benefit from two parents who put their animosity aside in the spirit of the season, if only for a few weeks. 

Read: Your Divorce Holiday Survival Guide

Concerts and other live performances

It’s the annual holiday play or concert, and you both want to be there to watch the performance. Yet you aren’t quite ready to sit together. That’s okay. As long as you’re both there and sitting within the eyesight of your child so you can smile and wave, this is what’s important.

You might have traditional holiday concerts or events you attend with the kids each year. This year, your parenting time schedule may dictate that you split them with your spouse. Maybe you can agree to take them to Disney on Ice, and your ex can take them to the parade. It doesn’t have to be difficult if you can agree to keep harmony as your primary goal. 

Holiday gatherings

Holiday gatherings are tricky. While you and your ex may be brave souls with boundaries of steel who can still get together for the holidays post-divorce, such a gathering isn’t always possible. Instead, many parents opt for an alternate-year approach. For example, you have the kids on Christmas morning the odd-numbered years, and your spouse has them the even-numbered years. Or, you might split the holidays another way. You get them for Halloween and Thanksgiving this year, and your spouse gets them for Christmas eve and morning.

Still other parents split holidays into morning and evening time slots, so the kids have special time with each parent during a single day, and family traditions can be enjoyed with both parents and extended family members.

If you’re planning to gather this holiday season, remember that your children’s well-being is your top concern. You want them to feel the joy of the occasion, not the stress. So, do what works best for all involved …  not what you feel you “should” do.

Virtual celebrations

For parents who aren’t close to each other geographically or have found that alternating holidays works best for them, celebrating some holidays via video call can help bridge the gap.

The wonders of technology can allow you to read a holiday bedtime story to your kids. If after Thanksgiving dinner is your time for family games, check out online platforms where you can all play a family game together. 

Technology is wonderful because it can allow both parents to experience the ever-important morning frenzy of gift-opening or the post-Thanksgiving wishbone-breaking contest.

Creating new traditions

The holidays will never be the same as they were before your divorce. That’s okay if you can embrace it as a time of new beginnings and new traditions.

Maybe you’ll lead the kids in conversations about gratitude, even making a gratitude jar to keep throughout the year. Maybe you’ll find a fun and special recipe to prepare together instead of the requisite turkey. Maybe you’ll take a holiday nature walk where you collect artifacts to create unique holiday decor, or you’ll plan a themed evening based on the traditions and foods of a culture the kids are interested in.

With your own new traditions, the loss of the holiday as you celebrated it when you were married may not feel so painful. You’ll have something new to look forward to each year. 

Read: How Divorced Parents Can Create Joyful Holidays for Young Kids

After a divorce, the holidays will look and feel different, but they can still be joyous, warm, and memorable. It’s all about adapting to the new situation, being open-minded and communicative, and sprinkling in a bit of creativity in order to keep your children’s happiness at the forefront. 

At Hello Divorce, we know divorce isn’t just about filing legal documents. It’s a journey that can take months or even years to navigate. We’re here to support you in whatever way we can. Here’s to a new life and harmonious holidays in whatever way you choose to celebrate them.

Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.