The holidays can be a tough time for divorced and separated families. Anger, fear, sadness and betrayal are among the emotions that both children and adults might contend with, but parents need to set these emotions aside to focus on their children. It is important to try to make sure that children still enjoy their holidays even though it may be hard for the parents.

First, parents need to find a way to deal with their emotions. That might be with a professional, such as a therapist, or it might simply be by talking to family and friends. What is important is that parents do not allow these emotions to interfere with their dealings with one another and their children. For example, a parent might be tempted to keep a child from seeing the other parent out of anger. However, this ultimately harms children.

Children’s anxiety will be reduced when they know what is expected over the holidays, so parents should make a plan and share it with them. They should demonstrate a positive attitude about the children spending time with the other parent. When the children get back from that parent’s house, they should not face a line of questioning; children should be able to share as much as they are willing, and parents should not respond judgmentally.

How to spend the holidays and vacations might be one element of the parenting agreement that parents make during the divorce process or the child custody schedule that a judge creates. Over time, parents might need to modify this or some other element of the custody schedule. While courts usually prefer that parents try to work out any differences between themselves instead of going back to court, it is usually necessary to return to court to modify a custody or support agreement.