It is that time of year again where the stores are bringing out the Christmas decorations and once again, we ask ourselves “How is it almost Christmas?!”
For many people who celebrate Christmas, it provides an opportunity to spend quality time with family and loved ones, particularly after the pandemic which made this incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Christmas can also bring with it its own stresses, particularly in the current economic climate.
For parents who have separated or are thinking about separating, there may be the added complication of how to celebrate Christmas and ensure that it is a joyous and happy time for their children as well as themselves.
Below are some tips and tricks on how to survive the Christmas period without any unnecessary stress or disagreement.
Planning is key
It may sound obvious, but planning can avoid a lot of disagreement and uncertainty.
Discuss the arrangements with your former partner well in advance so you each have time to consider the other person’s proposed plans and, if needed, negotiate an agreement.
Your children will want and benefit from celebrating Christmas with both parents, although it does not need to be on the day itself.
It may be that each parent would like their children to have an opportunity to be part of extended family traditions with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and you may need time to plan and negotiate these arrangements.
Once you have reached an agreement, put it in writing so there is no ambiguity on things such as travel arrangements and handover times.
If appropriate, you may then like to speak to your children about the arrangements, preferably together, so they know what has been agreed between you.
It is important to remember that the arrangements should be in the children’s best interests.
Every family is different and there is no one size fits all. What works for one family may not work (or be appealing) for another.
Equally what works one year, may not be ideal the next year and so arrangements may need to change from time to time to take into account things such as the children’s ages and needs and plans with your extended family, for example if you have family visiting from overseas.
Wherever possible, maintaining a level of flexibility can alleviate disagreements and promote a healthy co-parenting relationship.
Take care of you
Irrespective of how long you have been separated, many parents will find it difficult not spending Christmas Day with their children.
Where possible arrange to spend the day with family or friends so that you are surrounded by people who care for you and will understand that the day may be an emotional or difficult one for you and will provide you with the support you need.
Don't be afraid to seek professional help
If, despite early discussions, you are unable to reach an agreement then there is still time to agree arrangements for Christmas with professional assistance.
Options include attending mediation with an independent family mediator, engage a family solicitor, including via a collaborative process (which is a holistic approach where both of you and your respective collaboratively trained lawyers all sit down together to discuss and commit to reaching an agreement with the children's interests at the forefront of the discussions).
If you do wish to seek professional assistance, then this will need to be a priority.
Our team of specialist family lawyers are available to advise on all aspects of divorce and separation. If you require any advice, then please contact us on 020 3826 7520, or complete our online enquiry form.