December 13, 2013

Festive cheers or tears? Why it’s so important to make children top priority at Christmas

Blog by Peter Jones

Facing your first Christmas after divorce or separation is something that for many will be extremely hard, particularly if having to keep a brave face in front of the children.

But spare a thought for Pirates of the Caribbean actor Orlando Bloom and his model wife, Miranda Kerr, who announced their separation in October and media mogul Rupert Murdoch and ex-wife, Wendi Deng who just finalised their divorce.

Not only have they had to play their separation out in front of the world’s media but they will be facing the scrutiny of the paparazzi desperate to know what they are doing over the festive season.


Both couples have young children – Flynn Bloom who is only two, whilst Grace and Chloe Murdoch are aged 11 and nine. No doubt for all of them, Christmas will be a poignant time – the first time as newly divorced parents and the first one where their children will probably not be spending it with both parents.

As a family lawyer in Yorkshire I meet many clients who face this situation each year and the first Christmas after a divorce or separation is especially difficult. That’s why I always advise them to make sure they forget their troubles and focus on their children they are ones who should be the priority.

Remember that you and your ex-husband or wife are the ones who wanted to separate – your children will have had no say in this decision and may feel that they have contributed in some way to the breakdown.

That’s why it’s so important at this time of year to ensure that Christmas remains a joyous occasion – there will be and probably have been enough changes in their young lives, so the festive season is the one constant when they know they should be happy.

To make sure there are plenty of cheers and no tears, here are my top two tips to make sure your children enjoy the Christmas festivities.

1.     Don’t leave making arrangements until the last minute

Some of my clients do in fact continue to spend Christmas Day together with both sets of extended families, but for some this just won’t be possible.

If this is not an option, then plan ahead and make definite arrangements – not only do you need to know what you are doing, but children like routine and will want to know which parent they are seeing and when. Don’t use them as a bargaining tool.

In my experience, I have found that it is better if children spend Christmas Day with one parent and Boxing Day with the other.

They can often find it upsetting and unsettling if they have to leave one parent to go to another, but ultimately it is up to you as you know your circumstances best.

2.    Don’t get into an argument

If you are struggling to come to an agreement about arrangements, don’t involve your children – they don’t need to know that there are problems between you and your ex.

Just try and focus on the fact that Christmas is a special time of year, particularly for children and they need to be your priority.

And finally, if you can remember to make the best out of a difficult situation, you will make the Christmas festivities a more enjoyable experience for everybody.

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