The first Christmas as a separated parent can be difficult. Here are my five top tips to make it through the Christmas season with grace and charm to make the festive season truly festive for you and your family.
Communicate well in advance about child arrangements
If you and the other parent are finding easy communication difficult, there are options to help you negotiate. Your family lawyer is able to help you with this by directing you to resources such as mediators, a parental communication website such as talkingparents.com or by negotiating directly with the other parent. A courtroom is not the place to negotiate with the other parent. Most importantly, don’t ask the children to choose, that’s asking them to choose between parents. Don’t make them feel responsible for making the adults happy. Adults make decisions about the children. Children should not make adult decisions.
Make your priority about making happy memories for the children
Children love both parents and Christmas is a special time in every child’s life. Focussing on what’s best for the children is the way to a happier festive season, yes the children in your day at Christmas was how it always was for you, just like it was for the other parent. It’s not about you. Now is the time for a new way. What is best for the children is always the best guide.
Create new traditions
Try not to split Christmas Day. Ask yourself, do you want this for the children or you? Splitting Christmas day may seem like a fair thing to the parents but for the children it can be a time of upheaval and uncertainty and sadly an opportunity for parental conflict at changeover. Double stuffing is how children have referred to sharing Christmas Day, with parents and their extended families wanting to spoil the children. The morning parent wants to give the children the very best and children are quite naturally plied with wondrous mountains of food. Then half way through the day, just as they are settling after gift giving and breakfast, away they go to the other parent also wanting to do the best for their children and again abundant food is involved. Double stuffing indeed. Make it easier all round for your children. Some parents negotiate for alternate Christmas Eve Christmas Days. This works well for a lot of families creating new traditions.
Remember, Christmas is not just one day.
Keep it real
It’s not a competition about gift giving; gift mountains are a recipe for financial disaster. Keep gift giving as simple as possible. Show your children it’s not about the value of the gift but the gift of giving. Don’t forget you are still parenting. Teach your children about giving to others, perhaps by donating food to the less fortunate. With younger children, help them choose a gift or perhaps help them make something special for the other parent. It’s about the children giving to the other parent, not about you. Importantly, no inquisitions about gift giving.
Take some time to be peaceful
Christmas need not be a constant round of activity. Quiet family time singing Christmas carols, reading stories, sitting on the beach or a quiet walk along the Esplanade can be a special time. Children not with you this Christmas? Take time out for you. Read that novel, take that long walk, spend time with friends or volunteer to help those less fortunate to have a happier Christmas. You will reap the benefits too. Above all, enjoy the festive season and all the opportunities it offers. Remember, it’s a season, not a single day.