Nov 18 2011

A Happier Christmas – Advice for separated families

Children of separated or divorced parents can sometimes find themselves in the midst of family tensions over the festive season, and parents themselves can feel left out. Richard Phillips, partner in IBB’s family team, and an accredited mediator, says a little planning and consideration can help make everyone’s Christmas a happy one.

  • Don’t leave planning Christmas arrangements to the last minute. It is important everyone, especially the children, know well in advance where they will be spending Christmas. An urgent court application can be stressful and expensive.
  • Take the children’s wishes and feelings into account, but don’t ask them where they want to spend Christmas. It can put undue pressure on them and create loyalty conflicts.
  • If it’s your first Christmas apart, don’t get too hung up on who the children will be with on Christmas Day. There will be more Christmases to come. You could alternate Christmas Day each year or you might share the day if you live nearby.
  • Children generally like routine and certainty so try and repeat the arrangements over the years. Stick to the arrangements for collection and return of the children. There is nothing worse than an argument over Christmas.
  • Encourage or accept that your ex may want to take the children to visit his or her relatives whom they may not have seen for some time. The children may have enjoyed a close relationship with them before you separated.
  • Try to agree who will buy what present for which child to avoid duplicate or unwanted presents, and don’t compete with your ex over presents. Spending time with you is much more important for the children.
  • Don’t try and recreate the perfect family Christmas from the past. It is likely to fail and be a poor imitation of what used to happen – but try and keep some family tradition.
  • Children of separated parents frequently complain they are required to eat two Christmas dinners so as to please both parents. Don’t do it!
  • Allow and help your children to buy a present for your ex and even think of buying one yourself!
  • Reassure your children that you will be fine when they spend time with their other parent so they do not worry about you or feel guilty leaving you.
  • Don’t badmouth your ex in front of the children.
  • Don’t drink too much and make rash decisions during what can be a particularly emotional time.
  • If your ex has the children for Christmas, don’t spend it alone. Make sure that you are supported by family and friends and don’t feel guilty.
  • Try to relax and enjoy yourself with the children. It is Christmas after all!

For further advice, see www.ibblaw.co.uk.

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