A guide for separated parents at Christmas

Children|Divorce|Wellness & Self Help|December 7th 2018

Guide for separated parents at Christmas

For many of our clients, how to handle Christmas following a divorce or separation is a big concern. It may be the season to be jolly, but for those people co-parenting it can sadly be the season for stress and disappointment.

But it does not have to be that way. Managing Christmas post-separation is no easy feat, but with some careful planning, compromise and putting the children first, you may find some peace this festive season after all.

At times contact and communication are difficult, making pre-planning for Christmas complicated. In the absence of an order or arrangements, please do consider mediation and/or amicable correspondence through solicitors.

Our guide for separated parents at Christmas

Christmas is chaotic and organising a co-parenting schedule on top of everything else is never going to be easy.

Put the children first

First and foremost, put the children at the heart of all the plans you make. A different type of Christmas can still be a good Christmas. Talk about the positive: two Christmas Days, two sets of presents…

Preparation is key

Sit down with your ex, as early as you can, get the calendar out and look at how you are going to share the Christmas break. Sorting this out early gives you the time to discuss plans and compromise to create arrangements that work for you all.

Some clients we have worked with agreed that the children would spend Christmas Eve at one home and then return to the other for lunch on Christmas Day through until the 27th.

Other clients decided that they would spend the whole festive period with one parent and the next year spend it with the other, alternating between the two.

It is a personal choice based on what works for your family, but also the age of the children, location and how amicable you are.

Keep the children involved

Putting a plan in place will prevent any time pressures and enable you all to enjoy the festivities. Sharing plans with the children means they know where they will be throughout the holiday and the routine will make them feel safe and secure.

Creating a visual plan can help as dates can be difficult for a child to understand. One client created a Christmas themed wall planner for their younger children. A tech-savvy teenager may prefer a joint Google calendar.

Stick to the plan

It is important that, whatever arrangement you come to, you stick to the plan.

Last-minute changes can cause feelings of disruption and uncertainty for children. And, whilst flexibility is an essential part of positive child arrangements, it is important to maintain consistency and provide stability.

Coordinate presents

In certain situations, coordinating presents will not be possible.

However, Christmas must not descend into a competition between you and your ex-partner about who can buy the children the hero presents.

Get together to discuss and coordinate gifts as this will help reduce the risk of tension and conflict between you both and less stress for the children.

Remember the perfect Christmas is a myth

Trying to have a perfect Christmas is doomed whatever your relationship status, so now is a good time to reset your expectations. Yes, it will be different, but embrace this and make new traditions of your own.

Perhaps a Christmas Eve movie night, spend Christmas Day with other single friends or have a family Christmas dinner on Boxing Day. One of our clients decided to go abroad on holiday the first year she did not have her children. They all celebrated Christmas together before she went and afterwards. There is no rule book, so enjoy the flexibility.

And if it does not work, learn the lessons and make changes for the year after.

It is not easy to co-parent at Christmas and it will not be the same, but it can still be a happy time for all of you. You just need communication and compromise to pave the way

Get in touch 

If you would like any advice on a guide for separated parents at Christmas, divorce or other family law issues please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here. 

This article was first published in 2018 and has since been updated. 

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. Guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Andrew says:

    In my (professional, not personal!) experience it is usually mothers who believe that somehow the children belong with them over Christmas. I have heard a mother insisting that Christmas “will be lonely” without little Johnny, so he has to be with her, with no thought that last year it was lonely for his father. It’s particularly bad when he has started a new family and she has not.

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