Christmas is a stressful time for most, but none more so than for the many separated families in the UK. Sorting out where and with whom the children will spend Christmas can result in great conflict between families and the time of wonder and excitement for children is often replaced with tension and anxiety.
Naturally, each parent wants to create the perfect Christmas for their children and often feel they are the best one to do just that. However, it is really important for parents to put themselves in their child’s shoes and really give some thought as to what they want this Christmas.
If you haven’t agreed the Christmas arrangements for your children yet then now is the time to do it. Here are some top tips to help ensure that Christmas is a happy time for everyone:-
- Plan early. Don’t put it off and leave it to the last minute. Ideally the arrangements for Christmas should be agreed by the end of November at the latest. Give yourselves plenty of time to negotiate and reach a compromise.
- Talk! Separated parents naturally find it difficult to talk to each other, especially if your separation is relatively recent. However, it is important to remember that you are both parents and will always need to communicate about your children. Be the first to raise the subject but remember to discuss the options openly and with respect. Making demands will not help so be willing to compromise.
- Take a fair approach. Find ways of ensuring the children can enjoy time with both their parents and their extended families. Depending on circumstances some parents choose to alternate Christmas Day and Boxing Day, others share blocks of time over the festive period and some are even able to share the day itself. Some parents choose to spend time together with the children on Christmas morning to open presents or even share Christmas dinner together – this can work but the key is to ensure that your relationship is good enough so that you can keep emotions to one side and stay focused on the children.
- Listen to the children. Where possible, take into account their wishes and feelings. Allow them to have the opportunity to be honest without fear of upsetting either parent. Don’t put them on the spot and expect them to make a decision as to where they would prefer to be. Be prepared to be disappointed if it is not what you expected them to say.
- Remember the details. Ensure times, dates, venues, collection and pick ups are all written down somewhere and you abide by them to avoid confusion and dispute later on. Think about what will happen if bad weather makes travelling impossible. Accept you may need to be flexible.
- Avoid a Christmas gift competition. If possible, agree who is going to buy what for the children. If they are opening presents with both of you there, what about a joint gift?
If you are still unable to agree on the arrangements then seek legal advice. There are various options to assist you such as Mediation and Collaborative Law. Christmas is a time for peace, love and goodwill so enter into the spirit and remember to put your children first, despite the circumstances and other emotions.