Christmas is undoubtedly one of the hardest times for parents who are separated. Do remember that most families find Christmas stressful at times. Acknowledge that it is inevitably particularly hard when there is so much emphasis on one day that most separated parents cannot spend together so usually “miss out” alternate years.
Here are some tips to hopefully make the arrangements for this time of year easier and build some goodwill with your ex:
- Plan arrangements in advance. If everybody, including the children, know what is happening it avoids the stress of arrangement making hanging over the festive period.
- Although the rest of the world attaches great significance to 25 December, bear in mind for the children it is about what happens not the date when it happens. Plenty of children have ‘two Christmases’. Father Christmas is even able to accommodate an additional visit early or late to households where the children have been very good!
- If you are not going to see the children for a few days over the Christmas period, make plans that will make the time less difficult for you. Explain the position to extended family. If, for example, you are going to find it too difficult to spend the day with nieces and nephews when your own children are not there then be selfish for once – treat yourself. Lots of holiday companies offer holidays for single people from the more expensive skiing trips to weekends in this country that include an event on Christmas day. If there is nothing in your area and you need to stay local then organise something yourself. Remember you are not the only person in this position.
- Remember the old adage ‘what goes around comes around’. If you accommodate a particular wish of your ex he or she is more likely to accommodate a wish you have. If it was your decision to end the relationship think about offering your ex the first Christmas post-separation, particularly if there is still anger about your decision. If particular things were important whilst you were together, e.g. attending a church service or pantomime on a particular night, see whether this can be accommodated.
- Communicate about presents. I have known at least two four year old girls get the same pink Barbie bicycle from each parent because the parents did not communicate and both assumed that their daughter wanted the bike from them. How disappointing to get the same present two days in a row.
- Buy a present “from” your children for your ex. Don’t use the excuse it will be “the wrong thing”. In my experience you cannot go wrong if it is something that is “from” the child. Plenty of parents have loved receiving a decorated photo frame with a picture of the child in it or the “paint your own” mug set, again done by the child.
Finally, I would just say, please try not to lose perspective. It is only one day. Although the media, shops and everything else would tell you otherwise, it is easy to replicate and the most important thing is that the children have a special and fun Christmas with each of you.