The holidays can present particular problems for parents going through divorce or who have already divorced. Each parent wants family time with the children, and if not handled right, everyone can feel hurt or depressed. Fortunately, with some forethought, every family can identify the right Thanksgiving approach that should make everyone as happy as possible given the reality of two separate households.
The easiest situation would be if historically only one parent and his or her family traditionally celebrated Thanksgiving. In that situation, that parent would have the children for the holiday (from the end of school until the return to school) and the other parent would have first choice on another big holiday. This solution works well if one family happens to be large and tends to gather out of town for the holiday.
What happens if both parents have extended families and tend to travel out of town to celebrate? In this situation, it is impossible to accommodate both parents on the same holiday. So, the parents can agree to alternate this holiday week every other year so that each parent gets the chance to travel. Or, both parents could agree that instead of traveling they would each host their extended families, which would allow both parents time with the children and their extended families.
When both parents live in town and have significant family in town, it becomes much easier to make everyone happy. Rather than alternate an entire week, the parents can agree to divide Thanksgiving as a mini-holiday, with half of it starting on Wednesday morning and extending until mid-afternoon on Thanksgiving, and the second half beginning mid-afternoon on Thanksgiving and extending until Friday at noon. Parents can agree to alternate who has the early and late shift, but otherwise maintain the regular weekend schedule, which has the additional advantage of not needing to make up any lost weekend time. Using this strategy gives each parent time on Thanksgiving with family, so no one loses out.
If one parent lives out of town, usually that parent will have the week of Thanksgiving given the difficulty of having regular custody periods during the school year. However, if the distance between the parents is not too great, it would still be possible to split the holiday, depending upon how the parents have divided other holiday and break periods.
As you can see, the options range from sharing the actual holiday time with minimal disruption to the regular custody schedule, to extending the holiday to a Wednesday to Sunday chunk of time that alternates every other year, to treating the entire week of Thanksgiving as a vacation period that is either allocated to one parent every year or alternates every year (with the caveat that the children may miss a day or two of school).
Deciding which option best fits your family depends on your Thanksgiving traditions, the degree to which you must travel to be with family, and the willingness each parent has to share Thanksgiving every year as opposed to just alternating the entire holiday every other year.
We want to give thanks and be positive and family-focused at this time of year. If divorced parents can remember that is the point of the holiday, it can make working together to arrive at an optimal custody plan for Thanksgiving much easier.
If you have questions about Thanksgiving and divorce, contact us – we can help.