03 Dec Nancy K. Stone in the Birmingham Observer & Eccentric – Experts: Divorcing parents need to plan holiday celebrations
Birmingham Observer & Eccentric – Original Article
Susan Peck, Correspondent Published 3:33 p.m. ET Dec. 3, 2017
This time of year, many families are preparing for the holidays with special celebrations for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and more.
But for mixed-faith families going through the process of divorce, holidays can become stressful when it comes to planning festivities with the children.
Difficult questions concerning which religion the children will follow for the holiday observances and time allowances for each parent can take what is supposed to be a joyful time and turn it into chaos.
Experienced family and matrimonial lawyer Nancy Stone, of Rotter & Stone in Franklin, emphasizes that mixed-faith, divorcing parents need to be proactive and to work with their attorney to put thoughtful effort into the planning of the holiday celebrations.
“The goal is to work with your attorney early on to secure each parent’s holiday schedule with the children,” Stone said. “It’s best to get a plan written and documented in your divorce settlement, because this will help minimize conflicts and will lead to a more enjoyable holiday season for everyone in the family.”
Stone has three important tips for a divorcing mixed-faith couple navigating the upcoming holidays with their children:
“First, when negotiating your divorce settlement, be sure to bring a list of the major holidays that your family has traditionally celebrated in the past for both faiths,” Stone said. “You want to make certain you can be as specific as possible as to how all the religious and secular holidays will be celebrated and divided. And it helps to try and keep as many family traditions in place as possible, because it provides an added stability for your children.
“Secondly, timing is everything. Before the holidays begin, try to plan as much in advance as possible and organize pickup and drop-off times, flight information and other logistics. This will create less confusion and will help the holidays run smoother for everyone.
“My third suggestion is to try to consider each holiday separately and be creative. For example, you can agree to a ‘Two Nights of Thanksgiving’ so the kids can celebrate with each parent every year. This will create less angst for everyone and less surprises, especially for the kids.”
Studies show there are many positive aspects for a family to continue multi-faith practices and celebrations during and after a divorce. The Rev. Rick Spalding, educator in the Interfaith Community, New York’s pioneering interfaith education program, said, “Kids can handle a multiplicity of identities and, in a recent survey of children and young adults raised in interfaith families, almost 90 percent said they did were not confused by practicing more than one religion. Rather, they find it has more advantages than disadvantages.”
Having the support of both parents is the key to making the holidays a happy time for your children, Stone said.
“Your kids will be fine if they know that their parents encourage them to partake in all of the family’s celebrations,” she said.
And Stone’s last bit of advice is to “expect the unexpected.”
“Have a positive attitude and realistic expectations,” she said. “While there will be a change in plans at times, both parents should do their best to honor the traditions and values each parent has established concerning their holiday or religious customs. You never want your children to feel as if they are having to choose between their two parents, especially during what should be the happy holiday season.”