The holiday season is an often-dreaded time for parents who have recently separated.  It’s advertised as a time for families and togetherness and tradition…and every year there are many, many parents trying to hold it all together and put on a happy face for the kids while they navigate their own feelings around the family separation.

One of the most challenging items on the holiday to-do list is the parenting schedule.  As lawyers and mediators we spend a lot of time helping our clients work through this starting in or around early November every year and, often, right up to the school break.

I highly recommend that parents deal with this as early as possible to avoid last minute stress, unnecessary legal fees and, in some unfortunate cases, court.

For the parents who are currently working through their holiday schedules I will share some sound advice from a very experienced therapist, Accredited Family Mediator and Collaborative Family Professional, Michele James.

Michele reminds parents to keep their focus on the children’s best interests:

   “Kids don’t care about Parenting Plans.  They care about their family and friends and fun family traditions and memory-making.  The holiday schedule should reflect this.  What are the family traditions (old and new) that you want to happen with the kids this year?  How can you work with your co-parent to ensure that these events happen with each parent?”

Michele also has some advice when it comes to executing the plan:

   “Prioritize clear communication and follow the agreed-upon plan.  If the kids are transferring homes at 3:00 p.m. on Christmas Day, make sure you do your part to have that happen.  Remember that transitions can be hard for kids, so let them know the plan for the day in advance and then remind them close to the time of the transfer that they will be going to the other parent’s home at the agreed-upon time.  If you are picking your kids up, be on time.”

Don’t forget you don’t have to do it alone.  Yes,  you can get help with the legal issues but it’s also important to seek help for the emotional stress around this time of year.  Schedule time to talk with a therapist as part of your self-care this season.

Michele James can be reached at Connected Counselling & Consulting at