How To Triumph Over the Co-Parenting [w/ADHD] Holiday Burnout

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Co-Parenting during the holidays burnout tips

I have a confession to make. 

After my divorce, shared parenting time, and the back and forth hustle of pick ups and drop offs sucked. The losing of shoes, hats, and coats to the other parents home sucked.

But the thing that I found myself loathing the most about the new way of life was co-parenting during the holidays.

Halloween? Egh. That’s not terrible. We alternate years for trick or treating or we go together. 

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It’s the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years holiday. The co-parenting during these holidays. You know?

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The split time pass-the-hot-potato-kids around holidays that I loathe.

Which is sad really, because I used to love the holidays. Family time, and good food, and sometimes wine. The ability to truly eat what you want three months out of the year. Right before you chime in with everyone else that you are going to “Lose weight next year!” was a blast to me. There are small windows of time that I still enjoy it fully, but as a single parent with ADHD there is always a rushing around factor to it all.

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I dread it. I dread the scheduling all the Christmases, and trying to see everyone, and driving to three different dinners in one day.

I dread the making sure I tell every grandparent a different gift suggestion so no one gets duplicate toys or clothing. Yes, I really do that. (I’d tell you about the year of a million remote control cars but that would take too long.)

You see, my children’s family is comprised of three split families. If we go up one more generation, then it’s more like seven split families.

This makes for a lot of cooperative co-parenting during the holidays. 

My Ex husband and I are one. My mother and my father are the second split. Then there is my ex-husband’s dad and his mother, the third split.

It comes out to anywhere between six to eight family gatherings that my children are invited to each year.

If you factor in my boyfriend, bonus daughter and his family that’s one more. 

Note there I said: Invited. Not required. Not expected to be at. Invited.

In an effort to help you enjoy your holidays more and experience less burnout, here are a few tips. 

Survive co-parenting during the holidays this season:

Try to Combine Family Gatherings

If your divorce is fresh, or you and your ex-spouse have a difficult time communicating then this idea might sound unnerving.  

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For those of us who have graduated to co-parenting and communicating effectively, there is no reason you can’t do a joint holiday for the sake of your children.

Maybe you don’t have an ex-spouse. Maybe you just struggle to decide which extended family gathering to attend between your spouse and you?


Invite everyone to your house. He can invite his family and you can invite yours. Everyone can come together and you don’t have to leave the house. Offer to cook the turkey or the ham and have everyone bring a dish to pass.

Keep in mind this will be cause for more cleaning on your part. But trade one hassle for another. Drive time for cleaning time. 

Try not to take it personal if some of the family you invite declines, because the next tip I’m suggesting is;

Just Say No. 

I know, you really want to see your sister’s new boyfriend she brought home from college. Or you haven’t seen your Uncle George in months. Maybe your family only gets together during the holidays once every three years and this is the year they decided to do it.

For your own sanity, forgive yourself if you need to say no.

Forgive your partner if they want to decline. And definitely don’t take it personally if others don’t want to come to you.

Sometimes we just can’t do it all and that’s ok.

Guess what? It’s also ok if you simply don’t want to do it all. The holidays, no matter how hard we try to make them easy, are always hard. Don’t add to that stress with attending an awkward family gathering, or rushing from one dinner to the next.

Say no to some gatherings, trust me, by Easter they will get over it.

Co-parenting during the holidays, Surving the co-parenting holiday burnout

Ask for an After The Holiday Get-Together

Your mom’s house feels like Christmas morning, I get it. In my childhood home, we have traditions like waking up to eat cinnamon rolls, coffee, and bacon. No one gets out of their Christmas-eve pajamas and bathrobe until noon. We all wake up and watch the Macy’s Christmas Parade. Even I have a hard time parting with these traditions.

The truth is, your children will view whatever traditions you start on your holidays the same way we view our parents.

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So don’t feel guilty asking mom, dad, stepmom, and stepdad to wait a day or two.

Christmas only falls on a weekend roughly once every decade. Thanksgiving butts up to a weekend every year! Asking to wait until the Saturday after allows for you to take your time attending all the gatherings. Making for a more relaxed and enjoyable time at each of them.

Co-Parenting During the Holidays Tip #4:

Split the break in half rather than by hours

When you split your Christmas day in hour by hour increments it’s not just you that suffers. Your kids are rushed from one place to the next and never get to relax and enjoy their company. 

I know some will say “my kids are fine, they don’t mind.

When they have an end of the day meltdown over something silly (like receiving the same toy more than once), don’t blame them.

 If you are exhausted by the end of the get-togethers, and you are a grown adult, can you imagine how their little bodies and brains feel?

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By cutting the holiday break in half with your ex-spouse, things will be a lot smoother for them. Family members come to understand that the kids can’t attend their Christmas or turkey day every year.

Simply put; those are the days they are with their other parent.

Gather all the gifts from their family and let them know you will send them a video of the children opening them (thank goodness for social media!). This way co-parenting during the holidays becomes a routine experience for you, the other parent, and the children.

Offer to Alternate Years

Before you jump down my throat about missing your kids for Christmas, remind yourself that your co-parent might feel the same way. Even if you don’t parent the same way at all, they love your children. Likewise, wanting to spend a holiday with them each year.

You can alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas simply by using the odd and even years. Odd years, you get them Thanksgiving but not Christmas. Even years, you get them Christmas but not Thanksgiving. You can even have this written into your court order if you are dealing with an especially difficult co-parent.

Bonus Tip for New Years

On NYE Consider This:

Youtube has a countdown for kids that you can do at any time of the night. Yes, I know. Mindblowing! Whoever thought of doing this countdown at, say, 8 pm (instead of trying to help your kids stay up super late on NYE) was a genius! Make things easier on yourself and tell the kids you’ll do the countdown then put them to bed at their normal bedtime. Kids get to celebrate, and you can relax. You’ll probably fall asleep at 10 pm anyway, but I won’t tell anyone.

I hope these tips help you have an easier, happier less stressful holiday season. I know the stress of co-parenting during the holidays combined with the shuffling of the kids is something I don’t look forward too.

But do you know what I do enjoy? 

Living in the moment with them. Watching their faces light up as their favorite Disney star sings in the Turkey Day Parade on T.V.

Or seeing the magic spark in their eyes when they see Santa came Christmas morning. 
Live in those moments, until you have to rush to the next. The holiday magic lives there. 

Share this with your Co-Parent to begin a holiday scheduling conversation. They might appreciate the initiative.

LacyEstelle with Empowered Mom Life and Blogger Lacy estelle naturally combatting ADHD

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