Christmas is a time for families to come together and share the magic and the memories. Which is why it’s a really difficult time for parents who are separated or divorced. Conversations to sort out arrangements are fraught with emotion.
It’s often very hard to come up with a solution that pleases everyone. Is it ever really possible to have a truly happy Christmas after separation? They key to co parenting at Christmas is all about communication and compromise.
Any conversation to try and decide how to share the children over the festive period is hard. You may both want the same thing and anything else means that both of you will be disappointed.
Because Christmas is such a special time there’s a high probability that during the festive period, you will be feeling a little emotional about sharing the children. This makes it hard to discuss the matter calmly and rationally.
If you talk about it well in advance, even as early as the year before, it can help you to reach a compromise and discuss it more calmly.
Sometimes your relationship has broken down to such a point that you find you can’t talk together without arguing or letting emotions get in the way.
If so, it’s important to find a new way forward. It might be easier to communicate through email rather than face to face. Or you could try mediation so that an impartial professional can help you talk.
Consider what your children want.
Often very young children will worry about whether Santa knows where to deliver their presents. As long as you reassure them about these kinds of details, they will cope.
Older children might have a preference to where they spend Christmas and why. Listen to them and see if you can find a solution that works best for you all.
Whatever arrangements you discuss, do consider how you will keep opportunities for your children to join in festive days with their extended family.
Once again, this might mean making compromises but it’s worthwhile. It allows them to build strong family bonds and spend time with all their relatives.
There are many ways to come to an agreement about who will see the kids and when. All will include some compromise and sharing of those special days.
You might decide that your children spend Christmas Eve at one home and Christmas Day at the other. Or perhaps they spend Christmas Eve at one home and return to the other after lunch on Christmas Day. Or you could decide that they will spend the whole festive period with one parent and the next year spend it with the other, alternating between you.
Whatever you decide on when co parenting at Christmas, you can find ways to make it fair and give each of you special time with the children.
A common worry for separated parents is that Christmas after a break-up will no longer be perfect. It helps to reset your expectations of Christmas.
Yes – it will be different, but you can still make it magical for the children. You can still carry on with your Christmas traditions with the kids. Or if they are no longer possible, (or difficult to do without your partner), then you can create new ones that you can hopefully all enjoy for years to come.
Christmas after a breakup can be hard. It’s OK to not be OK. Allow yourself to feel sad and to have a cry if you need to. Then plan in some things to take your mind off things.
Visit family or friends. Go on a wintery walk with the dog. Curl up in front of a Christmas film with a snuggly blanket and a huge cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows. You need to reward yourself for getting through these tough times, one step at a time.
Once you’ve agreed to a schedule then work together to make it the best you can for your children.
Stick to the times you’ve agreed and try to make the transitions between two houses as positive and cheery as you can, even if you are feeling a bit wobbly about them. Talk positively to the children about their time both at your house and your ex partner’s and the exciting things your children will do at both.
It’s tempting to spend more and do more to try and compensate for the fact that Christmas will be different this year.
Sometimes it can feel like you need to up your game, so that Christmas at yours is more special than Christmas at your ex partner’s. Don’t fall into this trap. It adds more pressure on you and doesn’t help the children either.
If you won’t be with your children on Christmas Eve or Christmas day, make other plans so that you don’t feel lonely and upset.
Visit your family or invite over another single parent who is in the same boat. Maybe do something completely different like volunteering in a shelter to give back to others.
If things don’t go well this year then that might give you ideas as how to make things better the next.
Learn to forgive yourself and understand that you might not get things right straight away. It’s not easy to co parent at Christmas, so think of each year as a learning curve. Gradually you will find your way.
Co parenting at Christmas can be hard. Christmas might not be the same but it can still be a happy time for all of you. You just need communication and compromise to pave the way.