December 4, 2015

Practical ways for divorced couples to put their children first at Xmas

By Kate Banerjee, partner and head of children’s department

In the words of the famous song, “It’s the most magical time of the year”; a uniquely exciting holiday for children – and many parents, too, for that matter.

The festive season is a chance for families to spend time together and enjoy the special sense of occasion created by a delightful anticipation and build-up, peaking with the Christmas morning present opening ritual.

However, those whose parents have separated or divorced often find it a reminder of the absence of either mum or dad from their day-to-day lives – whichever parent they spend it with. Invariably, separation can be very tough on adults too: the pain of being parted from children can seem all the more acute at such a family-orientated time of year.

A common way for this pain to manifest is in arguments with ex-partners, most commonly over contact arrangements for the festive period. So, how do you avoid such rows when making plans for Christmas?

Here are six top tips to reduce the emotional strain:

  • Set objectives: just as in the wider context of separation and divorce, it is always best to start with seeking to achieve what is best for the children, despite your feelings or grievances. Genuinely strive for what will make them happiest and don’t criticise your ex in front of them – they don’t want to hear it. Also, avoid asking them directly or indirectly to take sides – because they definitely don’t want to do that.
  • Be flexible: with the above in mind, accept that children will want to see as much of both parents, grandparents, wider family and – crucially – their friends as possible. It falls to both parents to try to bring this about – and if it means that you end up spending less time with your children this year, discuss it reasonably with your ex with a view to making up for it next Christmas.
  • Communicate regularly: talk to each other and plan ahead. This will give you time to agree on and organise logistics, such as travel, seeing wider family, and grandparents’ access.
  • Tell the children what’s happening: children like certainty and security. With that in mind, let them know as far in advance as possible how Christmas will be spent. This will give them a chance to adjust to anything they might not have expected – and hopefully, present a scenario they can look forward to.
  • Add to the magic: if you are the parent who doesn’t spend Christmas Day with the children – consider laying on a second celebration or alternative treat. It will enhance the children’s enjoyment and anticipation and strengthen bonds.
  • Treat yourself: many parents get ‘cabin fever’ over Christmas and yearn for a break from their offspring after a few days at close quarters with them. Of course you love them, but if they are away make the most of it; treat yourself or do something you couldn’t do if they were there. Your health and wellbeing are vital when going through divorce – and for the family as life moves on.

The above steps are designed to ensure that this festive season is magical, memorable and as stress free as possible for your children. Considered planning to put their welfare first will go a long way to reduce tensions. It may also give separated spouses fond memories to cherish in the New Year.

If you have any comments, queries or concerns on divorce related issues, leave a comment below, call the team at Jones Myers on 0113 246 0055 or tweet us on @helpwithdivorce.