Tips for managing Christmas after divorce or separation

The Christmas season can be an emotional and stressful period as a divorced or separated parent.

Planning ahead is crucial to avoiding rows about where the children will be; it will give you peace of mind and reduce conflict if plans have been agreed to in advance. Contact on Christmas Day may be the most contentious issue; perhaps decide the year in advance who they will spend Christmas day with.

Different arrangements will suit different families.

You could think about having two ‘Christmas Days’, with one parent seeing the children on Boxing Day and one on Christmas Day. Or, you might prefer that both parents are given time to see their children during Christmas Day.

Try to make decisions that will minimise the occurrence of conflict.

Think about, for example, whether it is best for your family to unwrap gifts as a group or separate activity. Alternatively, consider celebrating Christmas Day together if this would work for your family.

Rows can increase anxiety in children over the festive period.

Remember to put them first throughout and consider the effects of the schedule on them. It is helpful to talk with them about arrangements rather than inform them – listen to them, and take their opinions into consideration.

Allow your children to contact their other parent during their time with you.

They could phone them or send photos of their experiences that day. You could help your children to prepare gifts for their other parent. This will exhibit cooperation, as well as demonstrating that you approve of the relationship with their parent. Your children may wish to talk about past special occasions. Encourage them to have good memories of their family, rather than trying to avoid talking about them.

Remember more than ever the importance of setting a good example.

Children learn from you and can imitate your behaviour. If you and your ex-partner use Christmas as an opportunity to antagonise each other your children will pick up on this, and the atmosphere will be one of tension and resentment. Remain flexible and be ready to compromise; consider if next year the issue will seem as important.

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