Christmas can be an especially difficult period for families with divorced or separated parents. Kids will want to spend time with everybody, but strained relations or distance can make this very difficult. Here are BLB’s top 9 tips for navigating the troubled festive waters:
1. Decide how you’re going to share
How is Christmas Day going to be split? Are your children going to spend the morning with one parent and the afternoon with the other? Or maybe one family has them for Christmas Day and the other on Boxing Day? Or perhaps you’re able to all spend it together? Which option is best will depend on your circumstances, and remember that everyone is going to have to compromise to some extent.
2. Plan ahead
Preparing a family Christmas is stressful enough without adding to the pressure. Have these discussions well in advance, perhaps at a time when things are calm and communication is at a good stage. Leaving it late will make an already potentially awkward situation even worse.
3. Present a united front
Regardless of how you personally feel about the arrangements, make sure you’re both communicating the same message. If the children think you are both happy with things, they are more likely to be too. Conflicting signals can be potentially very damaging.
4. Be positive
Christmas is traditionally a time about family, so not seeing a parent can be upsetting for children if things aren’t handled correctly. But sell them the situation – maybe they get two Christmas days? Or two sets of presents? Two Christmas dinners! Or maybe it will be one of those rare times that everyone does get together? Whatever you’ve decided, put your heart into it. This is going to be awesome, right?
5. Learn to let go
Try not to control your ex’s time with your children. Christmas is very special for everyone, and unless there are genuine safety concerns, give them some space. It’s very unlikely any irrevocable damage will be caused in the space of 24 hours by your kids spending time with people you don’t like.
6. Money cannot buy you love
Don’t race to outspend your ex at Christmas. Presents are exciting but cherished memories come from good time spent together. Just make sure you and your kids have a wonderful time. Play games. Wear a silly hat. Throw a brussel sprout at a cousin. Draw on grandad’s face when he falls asleep on the sofa. These little moments are what can last a lifetime.
7. Accept that it will be different
Maybe this is the first time you’ve spent Christmas Day without your kids, or perhaps you’re dying inside because they’re spending it with your ex’s new partner for the first time. It may not be perfect and it’s probably not what you would have ever wanted, but all you can do is make the best of it. There will be positives – dwell on them. Change always presents opportunities.
8. Christmas is about your children
This is all about them, not you. There will probably be a wide network of family members who all have their own wants and interests, and do what you can to make sure everyone’s included, but it’s unlikely you can please everyone. Focus just on pleasing your kids, however, and you won’t go wrong.
9. HO HO HO!
No matter how hard you may be finding things, do everything you can to make this a special time. Christmas is magical for children and you don’t want to ruin it. Whether the answer is an extra brandy or perhaps a nice present to yourself, find a way to stay perky for the day. You can crash and spend the day in bed when the kids are with your ex!
Should you wish to discuss any of the issues raised in this article in the strictest confidence, please contact specialist solicitor and family mediator, Sarah Jackson, on 01225 462871 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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