Remember when you were young and how excited you were about Christmas? Your children are no different, whether you are separated from their other parent or not. Teenagers may still want to stay in bed all morning on Christmas Day whilst you wait in anticipation for the day’s festivities to start, whilst, in their excitement the younger ones are probably up and ready to play at 5am!
Create happy memories
Your children should have happy memories of their childhood, and Christmas is one the most important times for them. They don’t want to remember being shuffled hurriedly during the day from one place to another, dropped off outside another house, not having time to enjoy their gifts. Or, worse still, receiving Christmas presents from the other parent at the top of the street on Christmas morning because both parents ‘simply couldn’t see each other’ and weren’t able to agree any plans.
Many separated parents will recognise these scenarios, or similar, but there are those who will tell you that it doesn’t have to be like that if you are able to make plans with the other parent which are focused around your children.
It may be difficult for you to make advance plans. Your children are bound to want to see both of their parents over Christmas, but it doesn’t have to be all on Christmas Day. They may not have told you, but your children have probably started worrying already about ‘who they are going to be with at Christmas.
Try to make it easier for children at Christmas.
Children like to know what is happening and that both of the people they love are okay with it. They need to know what is happening. Try to look forward and see how the current arrangements for your children and their other parent fit in with Christmas and try to have different options that fit in with each family.
At Family Matters, we have helped many couples to come up with workable arrangements to share the time with their children at Christmas. Mediation is an excellent route to working out your family arrangements at these times. You can talk about the things you are worried about with an independent mediator who has experience in dealing with family situations such as yours and will help you find a solution that will work best for your family. Some cases will need a court intervention if there is high conflict or risk. But that only makes up 5% of families.
No one size fits all solution for children at Christmas
Whatever solution we help you come up with – it won’t be a ‘one size fits all’. Remember, every child is different, and families work in different ways. Disorganised arrangements, uncertainty and parents who can’t talk to each other may affect each child in a different ways. The oldest child is often the one trying to sort out the parents and the younger ones sometimes revert to babyish behavior as a way of getting their parents to pay attention to them and not their arguments.
There are as many arrangements as there are separated families. At Family matters you can talk about:
- spending Christmas Day together – if you can. If you are on good enough terms, and you know your children will be comfortable with it, you could have Christmas dinner with your children, the other parent, and new partners (and any other children that have become part of the family).
- having 2 ‘Christmases’. Share the whole Christmas holiday rather than just the traditional 3 days of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Consider splitting the 2-week holiday into 2 and having one Christmas at the beginning and one at the end. Remember, children thrive on, and remember, family traditions, and if this were to become a tradition, it could be one that works well for years to come.
- what day Christmas is celebrated on. Of course some countries celebrate Christmas on days other than 25th Portugal, and Spain, for example, give presents and have their main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve. Many separated couples in the UK have taken up this tradition so that they can each share Christmas with their children.
- doing different things with your children. Don’t try to compete (that includes buying gifts) – it isn’t what they want. If your children can look forward to sharing time in different ways with each parent, it will be something for them to get excited about, rather than dread!
- alternating Christmases. This can work – especially if you live far apart, such as in different countries.
- making the children a priority whilst accommodating a parent’s work schedule at the same time. Some parents simply can’t take time off on the celebratory days, such as those who work in the emergency and health services.
- arranging Skype or Facetime sessions – or a prerecorded message where it is important that a child sees each parent on Christmas Day.
- having more than one solution. Plan B is always a good idea – just in case you find it impossible to stick to plan A!
Start planning now!
Christmas Day is one day out of 365. The excitement for your child comes from the tradition, whether that is Christmas Day, Christmas Eve or Boxing Day morning, so try to make a different tradition for your children in their separated family. Whatever arrangements you do make, communicate with your children, as well as their other parent. If they are uncertain as to what is going to happen at Christmas – they will become anxious. Children adapt well to change, as long as it is properly handled. Make sure they know that Christmas hasn’t ended just because their parents are no longer together – it’s changed. But give them time to mourn the family and Christmases they have lost and space to be sad.
So, start planning now – don’t leave it until 22nd December. Contact us now to arrange a meeting in which we can help you to find the best solution for your own individual circumstances. Tell us that you want to make arrangements for Christmas and we will make sure we prioritise your appointment.