7 tips to help you through the festive period.
Even the healthiest co-parenting relationship can come under strain at Christmas. Tensions bubble and tempers can flare at this time of year, making it a not-so-merry Christmas. With our top tips, we hope we can help you navigate the most common parenting pitfalls to reach a fair compromise that keeps everyone happy.
1. COMMUNICATION IS KEY
If you’re on speaking terms with your ex-partner, then this makes arranging Christmas plans a whole lot easier. Ask to meet up or speak on the phone away from the children to talk things over. When trying to come to an agreement on who will have the children and when, remember to keep the children’s needs at the very centre of the discussions. Don’t lose sight of the importance of their happiness or be drawn into tit-for-tat arguments – if the conversation starts to head in a negative direction, steer it back to the focus of doing what’s right for the children.
If verbal communication is a no-no, you can always write a text, email or letter to try to come to an agreement. You could even try mediation to help you and your ex find a way forward.
2. MAKE PLANS EARLY
Deciding how you will share the children over the festive period is always an emotional and difficult discussion. It can help to make plans as early as possible to make sure both parties know what to expect well in advance. You could plan for Christmas as early as the Christmas before – for example, if you agree you will have the children on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning and your ex-partner will take them from midday, then you can agree to ‘reverse’ this the following year to keep things fair. Planning so far in advance benefits not only the parents but also the children who know exactly what will be happening this Christmas.
3. CHRISTMAS COMPROMISE
Sharing your children equally and fairly means a lot of compromise. You might come to an agreement to split Christmas Day down the middle or for one parent to have the children on Christmas Day and the other to have them on Boxing Day. Whatever your arrangements, there will always be sacrifices that need to be made by both parties. Not having your children for certain parts of the festive period is never easy to deal with but it does make the time you do have together even more special.
4. ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS
It’s important to be realistic about your expectations for the festive period, especially if this is your first Christmas post-separation. The reality is that this Christmas is going to be different from those in the past. It’s hard to accept but the sooner you recognise this, the easier it is to adjust your expectations accordingly. Remember that although things look very different this year, the overall goal of Christmas remains – making magical and loving memories for your children.
5. IT’S OK TO BE SAD
It’s normal to feel sad or unhappy about your children being away over Christmas. Talk to a good friend for support and allow yourself to have a good cry if you need to.
Be kind to yourself when your children are away. Treat yourself to a long bath with a glass of wine, visit family or friends, have a lazy day watching Christmas movies in your new pyjamas or order in a takeaway.
6. GIVE PLENTY REASSURANCE
Sometimes, children may feel worried or unsure about spending time at the other parent’s house. Take time to listen to their concerns and give lots of reassurance where you can. Discuss your children’s concerns with your ex-partner to make sure they’re aware of any potential problems. Between the two of you, you can hopefully find a solution to make your children feel more comfortable with the agreed arrangements.
7. BE A TEAM
Once you and your ex-partner come to an agreement, it’s important to present a united front to your children. Let them know what the plans are and be positive and cheerful about it, despite how you may feel inside. Both of you should do what you can to stick to the plans to make pick-ups and drop-offs as stress-free and smooth as possible. That way, there’s less room for potential arguments or tension, meaning everyone involved has their best possible Christmas.
For more help and advice around separations and divorce, click here.