A Guide To Creative Christmas Plans For Divorced Parents

The holidays have arrived, and you are ready to create spectacular memories for your kids. For divorced parents, the holidays present unique challenges and offer unique opportunities! So as you carefully hang the stockings by the chimney and the smell of hot chocolate wafts through the air, you can do some planning to ensure a happy and joy-filled holiday for you and your children. We will look at some super creative ways to celebrate and some scheduling options that have worked well for others–all so you can make this the best holiday yet!

creative christmas plans for divorced parents

“Any day spent with you is my favorite day.
So, today is my new favorite day.”
– Winnie the Pooh

Favorite Days

If your parenting plan does not establish timeframes for the holidays, this is the place to start. Knowing which days and at what times you will have the kids will allow you to schedule events, buy tickets and make plans. As you collaborate with your co-parent to create a holiday schedule, remember what the wise Winnie the Pooh once said and know it isn’t the actual date your kids will remember; it is the memory of being together. Be as flexible as possible and focus on creating the best overall experience for your kids.

“I used to think being a kid on Christmas was the best thing ever, but it turns out
having kids on Christmas is!”

Start New Traditions

Consider adding some of the following activities to your list of holiday traditions to create a fun-filled holiday:

  • Create a Gingerbread Family Cookie Kit. Decorating gingerbread houses is a time-honored Christmas tradition for many families. While you transition into life after divorce, consider decorating a Family of Gingerbread people and talk with your kids about how no matter where you live or when you celebrate together–you are still a family. Have them share why they gave mom a warm green scarf, dad a red vest like Santa, and the family dog a big Christmas bow on his head—guaranteed to lead to lots of giggles.
  • Have a Holiday Movie Marathon. Have the kids pick their favorite holiday movies, make some hot cocoa, grab your favorite holiday snacks, and enjoy! A Christmas tradition doesn’t have to be something grand to be special and create lifelong memories. Your kids will remember laughing with you cuddled up on the couch while watching fun holiday movies. What matters is being together!
  • Go on a Family Walk. Why not bundle up and take this holiday celebration outside? Whether it’s going to the park or taking a walk around the neighborhood, share this time with your kids and take in some fresh air. There are lots of holiday lights and inflatables to browse along the way! And there might even be some impromptu caroling!
  • Read a Holiday Book Together. Gather together, grab some blankets, and snuggle up to read your favorite holiday books. Choose books about the holidays people celebrate and their unique traditions. This is also a great opportunity for the kids to help create a new tradition unique to your family!
  • Create Holiday Ornaments. The best holiday ornaments are the ones with special meaning. Have your kids create holiday ornaments or decorations this winter season. A simple online search can give you plenty of ideas for simple crafts or printables you can use to begin a unique holiday tradition!

For ideas on celebrating yourself this holiday season and a list of creative traditions, you may choose to start when the kids are with their other parent, click here!

“Christmas is not a time nor a season
but a state of mind.”

There are so many options when it comes to making time for both co-parents to celebrate the holidays with their kids! Let go of perceived ‘holiday rules’ and know that whatever works for you and your kids is best.

If one parent loves Christmas Eve and the other loves Christmas Day—there is no need to rotate! There is nothing wrong with one parent always having the children on the 24th and the other always having them on the 25th, if that works for your family.

“The traditions of Christmas are lasting because they’re made of love.”

Parenting Time Options

At the Aurit Center, parents agree on creative, personalized plans that fit successfully into their holiday traditions. Consider these creative ways to spend Christmas with your children as a stocking stuffer from our team. We hope these ideas help you create wonderful Christmas festivities that provide your children with the best possible Christmas celebrations.

  • Option 1: Traditional Odds and Evens
  • Option 2: Shared Time For Present Opening
  • Option 3: By Mutual Agreement Each Year
  • Option 4: Option to Travel, But Equal Time Otherwise
  • Option 5: Creative Negotiation To Keep Family Traditions
  • Option 6: Share Time Together During the Holiday

Option 1: Traditional Odds and Evens

“Children-with-Mom-in-odd-years-and-Dad-in-even-years” makes for a very simple and easy to remember agreement. To further clarify, the plan might state, “Christmas Eve is defined as December 24th at 11 a.m. overnight to December 25th at 11 a.m. Christmas Day is defined as from December 25th at 11 a.m., overnight until December 26th at 11 a.m.”


  • Each parent has time to create Christmas Eve and Christmas Day memories.
  • There is consistency and clarity in the schedule. Children know they will see both parents during the holiday and switch years with whom they spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Things to Consider:

  • Being away from either parent on the holiday can be difficult for children. Providing the opportunity for your children to speak with the other parent via Facetime or on the phone can alleviate some of the difficult feelings for your children.

Option 2: Shared Time For Present Opening

Same agreement as above with the added twist—the parent who does not have the children on Christmas morning is invited to share in the present-opening from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. on Christmas Day.


  • Opening Christmas presents with both parents can be particularly special for children when parents can ensure a healthy, low-conflict environment.
  • You and your co-parent determine where to hold the present opening based on what will be best for your kids.

Things to Consider:

  • If opening presents together is not an option, consider scheduling another time when parents can be together with their children during the holiday. When parents share an event (such as ice skating, holiday cookie baking, shopping, etc.) with their kids, their sense of security increases. Any shared moments with both parents will be cherished by your children for years to come.

Although we all hope co-parents can be amicable, remember that many find spending time together very difficult. So don’t pressure yourself if you aren’t ready to spend time together or you think there might be tension. Everyone’s situation is unique, and many families find it best to keep holiday celebrations separate. It is all about what works best for your family.

The holidays should be a time of joy, and arguments between parents would be worse for children than having the Grinch himself appear at the party. What is important is to do what is best for you and your children.

Option 3: By Mutual Agreement Each Year

“Mother and Father shall confer on October 1, each year, and mutually agree upon the details of the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day parenting time schedule. Parents shall share the holiday equally unless otherwise mutually agreed.”


  • Some parents cannot decide the holiday scheduling details due to inconsistencies in their schedules. Reasons might include busy travel schedules or a job where parents aren’t aware of their availability until just before the holiday. Other parents simply want the flexibility of deciding how annual holiday time will be spent.
  • Knowing time will be shared “equally unless otherwise mutually agreed” gives parents, and kids, a sense of security.

Things to consider:

  • This plan is usually selected out of necessity. Parents can still provide a sense of predictability for their children by scheduling holiday events as early as possible and reviewing the calendar with the kids.
  • Some clients meet with their mediator each year to plan their holiday schedules and discuss any other possible updates or modifications to their Parenting Plan, allowing it to evolve as the needs of children change. Reviewing or modifying agreements can cause conflict so work with a professional mediator as needed. When guided to keep conflict low, the mutual agreement approach can work well.

Option 4: Option to Travel, But Equal Time Otherwise

“The parents agree that in Father’s year, every “even” year, he has the option to travel outside the State of Arizona with the Children for the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day holiday [specific times such as “evening of December 23 – the morning of December 27” can be defined]. However, should Father remain in the Phoenix metropolitan area, Father shall have Christmas Eve and overnight parenting time, and Mother shall have Christmas Day and overnight parenting time. Father shall notify Mother each year no later than December 1 whether he will be traveling with the Children or remaining local.

In Mother’s year, every “odd” year, Christmas parenting time would be shared the same way, and she would have the same option to travel with the children.


  • The Option to Travel plan can be ideal when parents each want the opportunity to travel with the children over the holidays, as each parent gets the entire holiday with the children in their designated year.
  • This option is also flexible so that if the parent with the children does not travel, the children benefit from seeing both parents. Of course, the parent who had the travel option but did not travel typically gets Christmas Eve and overnight to Christmas morning parenting time.


  • Spending the holidays with only one parent for the entire Christmas holiday can be challenging for children. In this case, the other parent may consider still creating a “Christmas” for the children at a different time. By creating some unique and fun week-before-Christmas traditions—the non-travelling parent has created a meaningful experience the children can anticipate.

Option 5: Creative Negotiation To Keep Family Traditions

“Father shall have the Children for Christmas Eve evening every year to spend with Father and Father’s family. After Father’s family gathering on Christmas Eve, the Children shall spend the night with Father in all odd-numbered years and with Mother in all even-numbered years. Mother shall have the Children every Easter morning.”


  • Parents can negotiate creatively! Some families have standing holiday traditions they have had for years. To remain consistent–for the children, parents, and families–it can be beneficial to continue your family traditions even after a separation or divorce. Traditions may continue to include both parents or may solely continue with one parent. Either way, if both parents agree, keeping traditions alive can be beneficial for all.
  • Here is an example of how this works: Dad’s family has many cousins who are close with the children. It was important to Dad that the children continue this tradition, and Mom supports this. Dad has Christmas Eve each year, but he only has the children overnight every other year, so parents get to alternate having the children wake up in their home on Christmas morning.
  • Then, in exchange for Mom accommodating Christmas Eve dinner with Dad’s family each year, Dad accommodates Mom’s family tradition of gathering on Easter morning. This is the magic of mediation!

Things to Consider:

  • If parents are taking part in set holiday traditions separately, it can be difficult for the parent who is not included. Is it possible for both parents to continue to be included in one side of the family’s tradition? Yes, It is actually possible! If it doesn’t work well in your situation, take solace in knowing that your children’s participation is most important. Remember, this transition is an opportunity to create new holiday traditions.

Option 6: Share Time Together During the Holiday

“Mother shall have the children on Christmas Eve and overnight. Father is invited for Christmas Eve activities. Mother and Father shall have shared mutual parenting time beginning early Christmas morning to watch the Children open their gifts. In addition, the parties shall have shared parenting time, by mutual agreement, throughout Christmas Day. Father shall have the Children Christmas evening if he intends to spend time at his father’s residence. Otherwise, Christmas evening with the Children shall be pursuant to the mutual agreement between the parents.”


  • For some families, sharing the holidays as an entire family is not always possible after divorce. When parents continue to experience conflict, shared time for the Christmas holiday may seem impossible. However, in divorce mediation, parents lay the foundation for healthy co-parenting, creating a healthy environment that makes spending conflict-free time together possible. Sharing holidays is an opportunity to show your children that both of you are still there for them through anything. By leaving some openness and flexibility in your agreements, you can go into the holiday with optimism.

Things to Consider:

  • Sharing holidays can be challenging. New additions to the family (such as new significant others, new spouses, or even new blended-family members) can make it more difficult to coordinate schedules. There may be some awkward feelings when families first blend together for the holidays. Planning ahead, being patient, and focusing on the kids can get you through any challenging moments.
  • If necessary, you can set boundaries with new family members, making your intentions and priorities clear. Do what you can to create an environment of cooperation and stay true to what is most important to you. Whether you all come together or not, ultimately what matters most is that kids know both of their parents love and support them.

These six options are successful ways of sharing time with children over the holidays, and there are many other creative options that may be best for your family. Your family is unique, the traditions you choose to celebrate are unique, and a unique and creative parenting plan can support the well-being of your family.

We wish you a joy-filled, healthy holiday season!

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