“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”…
Unfortunately, for divorced or separated parents and families, Christmas can be a particularly difficult time. Separated families may feel as though everyone else is enjoying the perfect family festivities, while they feel more isolated and alone than during the rest of the year. Quite often bitter disagreements can arise between parents over Christmas contact arrangements and it can be an area filled with anger and resentment.
Don’t get the festive season off to a bad start. Here are some helpful tips and things to remember to try and avoid a disagreement over the Christmas period.
- Put your differences aside
Allow your child or children enjoy the festivities and fun of Christmas with both their parents. Whatever has happened between you in your relationship and whatever agreement you eventually reach, put your ongoing issues with your ex- partner aside. So, if it is at all possible, try and avoid getting into a dispute about these issues during the Christmas period. Christmas can be stressful enough and it might be prudent to wait until the New Year before addressing these concerns with your ex-partner. Let Christmas be about your children.
- Plan ahead
Communicate with your ex-partner about arrangements for Christmas as much in advance as possible. Trying to sort arrangements at the last minute will only add stress and possibly heighten tensions which will cause the children to be anxious about Christmas.
Be focused and calm in your communications with one another on the arrangements to be made and have your child or children in mind. Think about what is best for them. A common compromise is where arrangements are alternated so that the parent who did not get to spend Christmas morning waking up with their children this year will be able to do so the following year. You could even plan a ‘Practice Christmas’, when you get to be filled with festive cheer with your children, just on a different day. This way, everyone gets to have a full festive experience, and the children celebrate their Christmas twice.
Planning ahead and being flexible will work to everyone’s benefit as it makes it easier to plan early celebrations and visits to relatives so no-one feels they’re missing out.
- Organisation and positive communication
Once you have worked out Christmas arrangements with your ex-partner talk to your children about the plans in order to present a united front. This might also reduce any worry the children may have about splitting their time between parents at Christmas. Be specific with the arrangements so that together you can make plans to make the most of the time over the Christmas holidays.
Whilst it’s important to put on a positive front for the children, it’s also important that you don’t bottle up your own feelings. This situation can be distressing and tense and it can really help to talk to someone about how you feel. Speaking with a family member or a friend can lift your mood significantly.
- Christmas is about children
Christmas is all about children and naturally you want them to have good memories of Christmas as they grow up so the needs of your children should always come first. Children, on the most part, will want to see both their parents and share Christmas with each of them and their families. Children love sharing the magic of Christmas.
- It’s not a competition
Remember money can’t buy love so don’t feel pressured into buying presents you can’t afford. Set a budget and don’t try to compete with the other parent. When one parent is spending a large amount on expensive gifts, the other parent may feel that they can’t offer the same amount. This can lead to tension, stress and heartache, as parents may feel like they have let their children down if they cannot afford to compete. Remember, the children will be more content having a happy and relaxed time with you both at Christmas.
There is no right or wrong approach to arrangements for Christmas as it very much depends on what works for the family concerned. Hopefully some of our useful tips will help you avoid nasty, last minute disputes and ensure your Christmas is a happy one.
If you need us we are here to help. Our experienced and skilled solicitors at H Mc Partland &Sons will provide one on one professional service, specialist assistance and advice in relation to disputes concerning children, separation and divorce. Contact our offices in Lurgan or Lisburn today for more advice.