Christmas, and the long seasonal break, can be lonely for many separated and divorced parents.
Like many experienced family lawyers, I speak to clients who find it very hard to be positive about the festive period – particularly if they will not be seeing their children on Christmas Day itself.
However, I hope that separated and divorced couples have set aside their differences and agreed arrangements for their children. With only a few sleeps until the big day, now is not the time to be negotiating who sees them – and when – over Christmas.
With plans in place, and children at the heart of decision-making, divorced couples should now focus on co-operative co-parenting. Here are my five top tips to make a Christmas as enjoyable and pain-free as possible for everyone:
1. Christmas Day is just one day in the year. If you are not seeing your children on the day itself, then plan an alternative Christmas with them. Most children will be delighted to have a second day of festivities, with all the trimmings.
2. If you are the parent spending Christmas Day with your children, then be sensitive to how your ex may be feeling. Encourage your children to ring or Skype mum or dad. Don’t boast or post photos on social media about how great your day has been.
3. Avoid making the other parent, or your children, feel guilty if you are not spending Christmas Day with them. Do not tell them how sad or miserable you are feeling. This is definitely the time for a “stiff upper lip” if you are speaking to them, or seeing them for a brief part of the day.
4. Avoid competitive parenting. Ideally it is a good idea to have agreed in advance with your ex what big presents you are buying – or to have a set a budget for gifts. It may be tempting to shower children with expensive presents and treats to compensate for a marriage break up, but they are not a long-term solution to helping children accept, and cope with, divorce.
5. Christmas can be exhausting for everyone. Changes to routines, long car journeys, family events and late nights fuelled by too much sugar, mean that children will probably be grumpy at some point over the festive period. Accept that they will need some peace and quiet – whether that is a daytime nap for toddlers, or private downtime for teenagers. Schedule handovers to the other parent for a sensible time – not at 11pm – and explain to other family members that you may have arrive late, or leave early for festive parties.
I wish you all a happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year. The Silk Family Law offices close at 4pm on Friday December 22 and re-open at 9.00am on Tuesday 2 January.
If you have any queries about any aspect of separation or divorce you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me on 0191 406 5002. You can follow me on Twitter at @waynelynn and Silk on @silkfamilylaw