Christmas is a time for family, celebration, fun and festivities. Planning and getting together is all part of the annual excitement in preparing for the big day.
This can be challenging enough, but where families have separated, plans over the Christmas period can be even more difficult and emotional.
Christmas is a time for the children, and parents want what is best for them – however what do you do when the parents are in different homes? How do you each share time with the children to celebrate, without making them feel torn, or even guilty, about the situation? The key is communication.
It is essential where parents are separated to keep communicating in a civil and positive way. This not only helps to reach agreement, by listening to what each other are saying, but also gives a positive message to the children that can help them deal with a different routine than has happened before.
Where separated parents can successfully communicate, in a child focused and positive manner, children will feel re-assured and less likely to feel guilty for not being with the other parent. They are going to want to know each of their parents are going to be ok when they are with the other.
Children should not be dragged into adult issues, and thought should be given as to what they see and hear when arrangements are made. Involve them positively in the plans and encourage them to say what they would like, and it is important not to make them feel that they have to choose.
It is advisable to try and agree arrangements in good time, being reasonable with each other and always putting the children’s best interests first, think about what they will feel happier with, and try and avoid unnecessary disruption which may be put pressure on them.
Focus on what is important for children at this time of year, they want to feel comfortable and safe in familiar surroundings, and for younger children they will want to ensure that Father Christmas will know where to deliver their presents!
Where parents live locally, it may be appropriate for the children to spend time with both on Christmas Day, waking up at one home opening their presents, having their lunch, then going to their other home for tea, no doubt more presents, fun and games. This type of arrangement can be alternated annually to ensure the children can spend time with each parent with little disruption, and look forward to their 2nd Christmas, whether this is the same day, or the next day.
Finally, remember that children look forward to the excitement of Christmas, the songs, fun, games and presents, and spending time with their families. Don’t lose focus on this, and make it work for them.
Wishing you all, a very merry Christmas.
Head of Family Law