If you’ve just gone through a divorce or you’re still in the process, you’re about to experience the annual ordeal most divorced parents call “holiday visitation.”

Do you think it’s too early to worry about how to handle the holiday schedule? It’s not. Unlike years past, you need to do your planning for the holiday season a bit early. Otherwise, the conflicts that crop up can take you and your co-parent by surprise.

Where do you start with holiday planning? Here are some tips:

  • Ask to meet with your co-parent in a neutral location to discuss the upcoming holidays. Focus on the idea that you want to keep the holidays pleasant for the kids, and that will take a little cooperation.
  • Do not trust your memory. Review what your parenting plan Get your calendar out and make notes. That way, you know what you want to negotiate around (and what rights you have).
  • Try to make some agreements about how you’ll handle certain important issues. For example, what’s the holiday spending limit for the kids? Are there any gifts that you and your ex should purchase jointly? Are there any potential gifts that you or your ex want to ban? You need to be respectful of each other to make this holiday season work.
  • Are there any special events or days that you want to negotiate around? For example, maybe you really want to take the kids to see a Christmas ballet but the only night you can go is your ex’s night for visitation. See if you can trade some time, informally, with them.

Getting through the first holiday season following your split can be rough, but it’s doable. If you run in to trouble because your co-parent is being unreasonable, demanding or is unwilling to follow the parenting plan, talk to your attorney.