“Sharing Christmas” by family solicitor and author Helen Victoria Bishop
For children Christmas should be a magical and exciting time, full of anticipation and fun, from the school nativity and concerts, to the putting up of the tree and the wait for Father Christmas.
For parents, especially those who have separated from their partners, it can also be a very difficult and stressful time, with the added financial pressure that Christmas brings along with having to deal with the practicalities of sharing the children’s time over the holiday period.
Below I have set out a few practical points to consider when sorting out the arrangements:
- Plan Christmas in good time. Do not wait until the end of November and then start to negotiate when you are faced with the busy build-up of Christmas. If you are setting out contact in a Parenting Agreement it is a good idea to include the structure for Christmas contact.
- Of course both parents will want to see their children on Christmas day. If parents live close to each other this can be achieved by sharing Christmas day, with for example one parent having Christmas Eve and half of Christmas day and then going to the other parent until Boxing Day.
- If there is a large distance in locality between parents it might not be practical to share the day. Bear in mind that the last thing a child wants to do on Christmas day is spend long periods of time travelling. In which case Christmas day can be alternated on a yearly basis. If this is the case, remember Christmas is not just one day, and Boxing Day or indeed the day after can be made into a special magical day.
- Whatever pattern you decide upon – it needs to be fair and therefore ideally rotated each year.
- Make sure you talk to the children about the plans, and make it exciting for them. Having two Christmas’s should be seen as positive. The last thing a child wants to pick up on at that time of year is arguments between mummy and daddy. When discussing the arrangements it is good to reiterate that mummy and daddy still love the children, and that it is not unusual for parents not to live together and many children share Christmas over two homes.
- You will need to be able to compromise. However if you are simply unable to agree contact you may want to consider utilising a mediation service to try to compromise and reach a satisfactory arrangement.
- Try not to overcompensate when purchasing gifts and “compete” with the other parent. If possible try to agree who is going to purchase what gifts.
- In respect of school plays or concerts, make sure the school is aware of the circumstances so that both parents are notified of events.
The most important consideration to be kept at the forefront of negotiations over Christmas needs to be that Children are able to have a magical happy experience, spending quality time with both parents.
Helen Victoria Bishop Biography
Helen Victoria Bishop is a family Solicitor and Author and has practiced family law since qualifying in 1999. Helen has written a children’s illustrated book “Jack” to help children aged 4-11 deal with the issues of divorce and separation. The book is endorsed by “Resolution” and is available on Amazon and through Waterstones. Helen currently works part time as a Consultant Solicitor, she is also involved in various charity work and is Vice Chair and Safeguarding Governor for a Primary School in Hampshire.