December 21, 2012

How separated parents can maintain the magic at Christmas

 Guest blog from Sylvia Ould of Family Assessments

Christmas is a time of high expectations for many people – not just children waiting the arrival of presents under the tree. For parents who don’t live together it can be a time of great angst.

On occasions like Christmas and New Year it takes time and effort to come up with plans that suit the complicated lives that people lead. Even if ex-partners can communicate well it is still difficult to include everyone and everything in festive plans. Early preparation is wise, as mentioned in last week’s blog – so I hope most families are prepared and that my tips are a little too late! 

How can we make Christmas more enjoyable, festive and fun for children in homes where parents are separated or divorced? 

  • Children are likely to want to remain in one place for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.   This is a magical time of year for both parents and children. It’s also short lived in terms of the age of the child so each year is precious. The first year of being separated from your children at Christmas can be particularly hard. If you’re the parent without your children on Christmas Day it can help to break with tradition and do something different
  • Adults are much more precious about the time spent with the children than the other way around. Children don’t normally worry about where they spend Christmas; they enjoy the excitement and magic of the day – and of course the presents!
  • Share your children’s excitement in Christmas and try to remain upbeat for them.  It’s a great boost if they can ring their ‘absent’ parent. If you’re the parent receiving the call then put on a brave face and don’t show your disappointment about being apart from them
  • Children benefit from keeping to their usual routines, although bedtimes are likely to be a little more relaxed over the holidays. However, it’s unfair if children have had little sleep and are too tired to enjoy their special time with their other parent.
  • Often parents will want to split Christmas Day itself – believing this to be fair. However, this is rarely right for the child, as they will not want to leave their presents or leave the celebrations that they are part of. Rather than feeling hurt or frustrated parents and other family members need to embrace the day and make it a wonderful, memorable time for children.

Sylvia Ould is an independent social worker and expert in child focused mediation, working with families to help them sort out arrangements for their children.

Jones Myers would like to wish everyone a happy time this Christmas, with family or friends, wherever you are.