By Wayne Lynn, partner
For recently separated couples in particular, this time of year can be a source of huge distress. For the first time one parent is likely to miss the opportunity of watching their child, or children, opening their presents on Christmas Day morning.
In my experience as a family lawyer, it is possible to find a solution which suits everyone – provided the children are placed at the very centre of that decision-making process. This can often be difficult – or overlooked – when parents are in the immediate aftermath of a painful separation.
My five golden rules for a pain-free Christmas and holiday period are designed to help and support newly separated parents:
- Place the welfare of the children first. Christmas is all about children, not parents. Mums and dads understandably want to spend good-quality time with their children over the Christmas period – but it should be a magical experience for children. They should not feel upset or guilty by spending time with one parent and not the other. Parents should remember that they are creating memories – and surely it is the right of every child to look back on their childhood with happiness.
- Keep the channels of communication open. Even if relations are strained (or even non-existent!) it is still essential that children know that their parents are able to communicate effectively so that the children themselves know where they stand. I sometime encounter situations were very young children dictate arrangements which slowly but surely become unworkable and which can cause conflict between parents. The best communication is always face-to-face or by telephone – if you must, then by email/text. Family members can sometimes help, or trusted friends. The worst communication is that which leads to arguments, particularly in front of children – it is completely counter-productive and should be avoided at all cost.
- Children should have fun – and the best time possible – at Christmas. This magical time should not be tainted by mum or dad displaying signs that they resent the other parent – for example blaming the other parent for the amount of time spent with sons and daughters. Arrangements should be presented as being normal and natural to child – even if that means one parent having to to hold their tongue.
- Christmas is a time for the extended family. I encounter many situations where one parent refuses to allow the children to come into contact with grandparents or other members of the extended family because they have “taken sides”. Children have every right to have relationships with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Christmas is usually a time when there are large get-togethers which may not happen very often, but which will allow the children to meet their relations and re-enforce their sense of family. This is particularly important when their parents have separated.
- After Christmas comes New Year, which very often means resolutions and new starts. This could be an ideal opportunity to try to put personal feelings aside, draw a line under past arguments and work together to ensure that children are supported through the family breakup. It will help if they can have a positive image of each parent, and see that mum and dad are prepared to work together to ensure that everyone can move on with the best possible future ahead of them.
At Silk Family Law we are experts in matters relating to children, including issues of residency, contact and child maintenance. If you have any queries raised by this blog, or about any aspect of separation or divorce, please email Wayne at firstname.lastname@example.org, or him call 0191 406 5002.
You can follow Wayne on Twitter at @waynelynn and Silk on @silkfamilylaw
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