How to Negotiate the Holiday Visitation Schedule

Posted December 13, 2010 by

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The holidays are quickly approaching, which means it’s time to go into hard-core negotiations regarding the visitation schedule for our kids. My husband and I need to coordinate with three separate families to be sure everyone gets to spend their fair share of time with the children, hopefully when festivities are scheduled, and without stepping on anyone’s toes. Not only do we need to schedule extended holiday visitation, but holiday parties need to be scheduled so that extended family gets to see the children as well. On top of that, we need to be sure we do not duplicate gift giving. I firmly believe that this is a time where old grievances need to be set aside and we need to deal with one another as civilized adults, thinking only of the children and what will make their holiday less stressful.

Some families alternate the holidays each year, with one parent having the children on a particular holiday one year and the other parent having the children the next year. No plan is foolproof. Things come up. What about when one parent works a nontraditional schedule, like every weekend or evenings?

In our situation, at least for the winter holidays, since both my husband’s ex and my ex are not the same religion as we are, it was easier to say that they got the children for Christmas and we got them for Hanukkah. We thought we were so smart saying it was easier for us, but what about when Hanukkah falls at the beginning of December, or smack in the middle of the other parent’s scheduled winter visitation week? We have been known to celebrate Hanukkah after it was over, just so that we knew it was a date where we would have all four of the children. This year my stepchildren will celebrate Christmas on  the 26th because their mom works weekends and is scheduled to work Christmas day.

Then there is the question of buying gifts for the child’s other parent. They do not want to go empty handed! Or suppose they have a slew of step-siblings and half-siblings? You could go broke buying gifts for the children of your ex! We encourage our school-age children to make cards or gifts for them.

As far as gift giving for the children, we try to coordinate with the other parents. The children are asked to give us separate lists so that we do not duplicate; or if one parent decides to buy a game system to let us know so  the other can get a game or two. Big ticket items usually get “run by” the parent with whom the child lives, because we have run into the issue where one parent feels it is an appropriate gift while the other does not.

I’d love to hear what has worked for other families!


I am a mom of two boys, ages 16 and 22, both with ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. I have remarried and my husband has 2 boys, ages 13 and 16. The 13 year old lives with us, and has some behavioral problems and attachment issues. There is always something happening at our house!

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