Christmas is traditionally seen as a time for families. But as most parents know only too well, it can bring plenty of challenges too - there is always so much to do, and there can be stresses and strains as you try to ensure that your children have a great time.
But for divorced and separated parents Christmas can require particularly careful planning, according to family law group Resolution, of which I am a member and which represents family lawyers in West Yorkshire and works to make sure the needs of children come first when families breakdown.
After all, how many children want to end up with double servings of brussels sprouts? More seriously, Mum, Dad and the children can find themselves feeling confused, disappointed and frustrated during the festive season.
Christmas across two households can be difficult for children and for their parents too. But with a bit of planning and a willingness to compromise, separated parents can go a long way to ensuring that their family still has a merry Christmas.
The main thing to remember is that you are both still parents - and putting the children's needs first is essential for their well-being and happiness.
The first Christmas apart can be especially difficult. The emotional pain of the split may still be strong, and even if this is not the case Christmas can bring unfamiliar expectations, pressures and decisions.
Christmas can be difficult for parents who have been separated for some time too. Often both parents may want to be with their children, for example. It is important to remember though, that arguing can be very damaging to the children.
Here are Resolution's five Christmas tips for divorced and separated parents:
- Put your children's needs and feelings first. Discuss arrangements with the other parent and try to share both the pleasure and the responsibilities.
- Let the children know that even though things will be different, Christmas can still be special. Work together with your children to create new Christmas traditions in each home.
- Think long-term and stay flexible. You may want to be with the kids on Christmas Day but there will be other Christmases. It may be fairest to agree to alternate which household the children are at from one year to the next.
- Don't compete with your ex over presents for the children. Instead, discuss what presents to buy so that you don't duplicate. Consider whether it would be helpful to continue the tradition of a joint present from both of you. And allow your children to decide where they will keep their gifts.
- Ask for help if you need it and make sure to use the wealth of resources designed to help separated parents manage. Feel free to contact any one of our Family Team. In addition, Resolution's Parenting after Parting advice pages at www.resolution.org.uk/parentingafterparting are full of useful tips and advice and also contain information on specialist workshops for parents going through divorce.
Disclaimer: Anything posted on this blog is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any general or specific matter. Please refer to our terms and conditions for further information. Please contact the author of the blog if you would like to discuss the issues raised.