With all family members living under one roof, parents are typically available for special occasions, be they birthdays, holidays, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
Come separation, sorting out when the kids are with whom for those special occasions can be a challenge. Issues over children’s birthdays, parents’ birthdays and other special occasions can lead to tension and conflict.
Concern arises when the special day falls on the other parent’s time or when the occasion, such as Christmas, creates a conflict of interest with both wanting the same time.
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Age of children can also be a factor in sorting out special occasions between parents. The degree of ongoing conflict also factors into how to address different wants and one’s flexibility.
The greater the parental conflict, the more detailed any agreement should be between parents. It is also important to detail all special occasions well in advance, so issues don’t arise in the run up to the occasion.
For exes who find themselves in considerable conflict, common solutions include taking turns having the kids with them on a year-by-year basis. Splitting days can also work. On the matter of birthdays, rather than necessarily having to see the child, parents can at least have electronic contact to provide well wishes with the actual celebration taking place on one’s own parenting time.
For the children’s birthdays, it is common for parents to have separate family parties and to agree on who is responsible for the child’s party that includes their friends. If parents get along reasonably, they can of course combine their efforts, co-plan and co-attend. This remains at their discretion and should be determined by the willingness of both parents and their level of conflict.
When gift-giving, it can be helpful for exes to set dollar limits on the amount spent and to share information as to choice of gifts if it is important to avoid giving the same gift. Where possible, parents should agree on choice and use of electronics, internet access and ongoing fees.
Some parents may have concerns about a family member of the other parent. Where possible, it is helpful to discuss those concerns and have a plan in place to assure children’s safety and well-being.
Remember, special occasions create memories. Be mindful of what you structure and how your plan unfolds. This experience can set the memory your child carries into adulthood. It could influence your life-long relationship, and their connection to that special occasion.