Whatever the case it is never easy to see the kids go, isn't it?
It is true, it is very important for a child to see and spend time with both parents, whatever the agreement is, but it is very hard to let them go even for a few hours - it is for me at least.
My son is 2-years old, and even though he has been on a split home situation since he was born, he still has separation anxiety issues when he leaves my house (every weekday!) - it is hard to see him cry, or cling to me before going into dad's car. It is hard to get him ready for the leave - meaning having to talk him into going, one hour in advance. He has gotten better, and I know it will pass, but still it is hard - we feel like he is going to be traumatized forever! a friend of mine who has gone through the same situation assures me they won't remember, and will adapt. I know it is true.
One thing is certain though, they will remember the attitude we have when we do the exchange (between the parents).
I encourage you to put your "best face" out there, even if we don't mean it :) until it is just a "ritual" to fake-smile. To truly encourage them to spend time with the other parent, because we know it is good for them - regardless of what we think about the other parent's character, they are in his/her life.
As I said before, unless you suspect abuse - that's when you act in behalf of your child - we ought to encourage that contact and bond - then we can vent with our friends ;)
I know there are plans that are fitted for every stage on a child's life. Infant, Toddler, Early School and High School.
Hopefully there is a smooth transition between all of them, but as the kids get older, it gets easier, because the kids' opinion start to matter to the court.
You should see what your kid can handle and if the other parent cooperates, then establish a plan, or if you are going through the court process, then you have to wait for their decision. Unfortunately, they base their recommendation on the age-guidelines, not on a particular case, so, work it out if you can.
It is OK to sacrifice some holidays I think. I feel like it is better for the kids to spend a whole day holiday with one parent instead spending them rushing off to change houses in the middle of it - yes, you may not get to see them that day, but there is always next year.
You give the meaning to the day, you can make the following day special for them as well, and your kids will have an extended holiday celebration, or something like that - you make it work.
Separation anxiety will pass, more quickly for the child I guess, but in the meantime, fixate your thoughts on the fact:it is good for the kids. Put up a "good" face and keep on going. You be the rational one, your kid will thank you one day.
Blessings and thank God for your kids!!!