As the Christmas period approaches, some parents face the challenge of communication and agreements about how to share parenting over the Christmas period. This year, more than ever, experiences are more important than gifts and children want to have loving relationships with both parents.
Consider your children’s views but don’t ask them to choose.
Try to keep your child’s feelings at the heart of your plans. They may feel sad about not seeing their other parent or upset at how things have changed.
Creating new traditions might help with these feelings. See what you can do together to have fun at the moment rather than focusing on what Christmas used to be like.
It is important that children can have a view of where and how they will spend their time over the festive period. Children need to feel that their views are important and that parents will prioritise these. Asking children to choose between their parents is likely to be confusing and they will be aware that whatever choices are made they will be disappointing one of the parents.
Santa can visit at different times and his sleigh helps him to travel. Christmas can happen more than once, enabling both parents to have those special moments. Handled well, children experience twice the festive magic.
If children can’t get to one of the parents (or other family members) the magic of the internet and video calling means that people can be together even when they are far apart. Making these plans and implementing them in a way that feels fun and normal can add to a great Christmas.
Think about the arrangements and practicalities early.
The sooner all parties know the plans the more potential there is to avoid conflict. Once you have a plan, try to present a united front to the children. Be positive about what’s going to happen. Make any move between homes as calm and cheerful as possible.
Christmas will be different after separation. But it can still be a special time for you and your child. Think of it as an opportunity to create new memories and traditions together.
Don’t forget any potential postal or travel strikes. You might need to make alternative arrangements for getting gifts to children this year.
If you use (or want to use) a Child Contact Service book in sessions early. Christmas is typically the busiest time of year and slots fill quickly.
Communication is one of the biggest challenges that separated parents face. Avoiding conversations will increase frustrations and potential conflict. If it is likely to be a challenge to have these discussions a trusted safe person might be able to assist with this. Alternatively, planning by text, social media, or separate parenting apps can help.
Listen and be Open to Compromise.
Listen and be open to compromise. You both love your children and may have different ideas or prioritise. Other family members might also want to see your children over this time. Hearing the thoughts of the other parent and being able to compromise is not only good for your children, but it might promote the likelihood of the other parent doing this for you when you need it.
Avoid going into competition with other family members.
It’s tempting to spend more and do more to try and compensate for the fact that Christmas will be different this year.
Sometimes it can feel like you need to up your game so that Christmas at yours is more special than Christmas at your ex-partner’s. Don’t fall into this trap. It adds more pressure on you and doesn’t help the children either.
Look after yourself.
Christmas after a breakup can be hard. It’s OK to not be OK. Allow yourself to feel sad and cry if you need to. Then plan some things to take your mind off things.
Visit family or friends. Go on a wintery walk with the dog. Curl up in front of a Christmas film with a snuggly blanket and a huge cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows. You need to reward yourself for getting through these tough times, one step at a time.