Handling the holidays with your teen (and a divorce)

Teens are at an age where they’re largely becoming independent. They want to do things with their friends and to have some control over their schedules. Unfortunately, with a divorce, you have to make decisions about custody schedules and arrangements a long time in advance. Your child may not necessarily have a say in every part of that agreement, and that means that you have to make sure they stick to it. You and your co-parent should discuss the holidays in advance, because even though you have a custody schedule that you’re relying on, your teen may have days where they simply don’t want to participate. They might want to go to a friend’s house on one of your custody days or ask to go to a holiday event that causes them to miss time with the other parent.

Handling independence while sticking to a custody schedule

It is reasonable, especially if your child can already drive, to give them at least some independence in their schedule. You and their other parent should sit down and discuss this with them. For example, you may say that you’d like them to come to your home on Christmas, but you’re willing to let them go visit a friend for a few hours. The other parent may have custody that day instead and say it’s fine if they want to come see you for a few hours that day in a kind of split-holiday arrangement. Sometimes, life gets easier when your teen can drive and voice their opinion on what they want to do. Other times, that can make your life a little harder. Setting ground rules before the holidays arrive will help you stick to the custody schedule or communicate changes that your teen would like and that both you and the other parent are happy with. If you run into issues with the custody schedule, you can ask to modify it in court. However, many parents who can be flexible find that adapting to their child’s need for independence is possible while retaining the schedule that has worked so far for your family.