The latest COVID-19 lockdown is difficult for everyone and, even though we know it’s due to come to an end on 2ndDecember, making plans for how we will spend Christmas and whether we can see our families seems just about impossible.
Christmas will definitely be different in 2020 in many ways, but for separated parents, who still have to make plans for their children and try to manage their expectations, it’s likely to be more complicated than ever. Children need certainty wherever possible, so planning in advance is always vital to ensure that they can spend time with both parents when they are separated.
Last year, in our news article, “The twelve days of Christmas – for separated and separating families”, we offered guidance on how separated parents can use timing, organisation, communication and being fair and flexible to try to make life easier for them – and their children – at Christmas. Much of this advice still stands, and, with the COVID situation as it is at the moment, flexibility and creativity are probably key to finding a way to ensure that children can spend time with both parents this Christmas.
Being flexible and creative
Try to remember that the situation we are in is unprecedented and it will not last forever. Even under the current restrictions, children under the age of 18 can spend time with both separated parents, and you can still use your childcare bubbles – which can include grandparents, or social bubbles with single adult households. Of course, in all situations, you will need to ensure it is safe for your children to visit anyone without the risk of getting infected with COVID-19 or passing the infection on.
Remember Christmas is about children, so try to be flexible in your approach to sharing time with the other parent. If the need comes and plans have to change, try to make sure your children can communicate with their other parent digitally using Skype, Teams, Zoom or Facetime, for example. You can always make up missed time with your children’s other parent when the situation allows.
You could also make the time before and around Christmas more enjoyable for children by finding some creative things to do using online methods, for example:
- Baking and cooking
- Making Christmas cards and decorations
- Putting up the Christmas tree
- Wrapping Christmas presents
- Watching films
- Singing carols
- Playing games
Traditions and COVID Christmas
Maintaining any traditions that you have created within your family is good for children – it offers some stability, but it might be difficult this year. For example, it might not be possible to spend Boxing Day with grandparents and/or extended family. Again, being flexible and getting together online to say hello to everyone, or even to eat Christmas dinner or play the games you would have played if you were together can be fun for children. Of course, if your traditions involve one parent taking children abroad to see their family, it is likely to impossible this year. Even if you have the necessary permission to do so, you will have to think about the restrictions and self-isolation you might face in the other country or when returning to the UK.
Plans are not set in stone
Your children are more likely to be anxious this year and you will need to make sure that they spend as much time as they normally would with each parent – even if this is digitally. Try making your plans for the Christmas period in the normal way – remember – they are plans and plans can change. Try to think about a number of different options so you are ready to take into account changes. As we always say – make sure you have a plan B if you can, so you are able to adapt to any necessary changes.
Mediation can offer an excellent route to working out family arrangements, so if you need help making arrangements for your children this Christmas, contact us now to arrange a meeting with a trained, independent mediator. Every family is different, so we won’t try to give you a one size fits all solution. We will help you to find the best solution for your own circumstances, even in these challenging times. When you contact us, tell us that you want to make arrangements for Christmas and we will make sure we prioritise your appointment.