A Divorced Family Christmas

You might not be thinking about Christmas just yet. After all, we’ve just had Halloween and there’s Bonfire Night still to come. But for two groups of people, Christmas is coming….

Children

The first group is, (yes, you guessed it), children. You knew that already because the Argos Catalogue has probably found its way into your home and has been thumbed to death. Copious lists to Father Christmas have been written and rewritten (When does Father Christmas close his order list)?  Older, more meticulous children will have already drawn up a list for you with the relevant page numbers on to ensure that you are absolutely clear what is required this year!

It doesn’t get easier, it just gets more stressful

You might be wondering who the other group are?

Separated & Divorcing Parents

You see, it might be 52 sleeps to Christmas (at the date of publication of this post), but in terms of resolving what the  arrangements are for seeing your children, if you are a separated parent, it’s no time at all. Here at Your Family First we are already supporting separating and divorcing parents to make arrangements for their children this Christmas. Have you got this sorted yet? Don’t leave it because it doesn’t get easier, it just gets more stressful. Leaving it until the week before Christmas is absolutely the worst thing you can do. Here’s why:

  • Your former partner is too busy to listen.
  • Your lawyer is fully booked.
  • The Court lists are full.
  • With all the other things you have to think about, you are feeling stressed and not in the best state to talk.

If you haven’t got plans in place, start doing it now, like right now. Have you asked your former partner to agree time with the children yet? Are you burying your head in the sand because you

a) don’t want yet another row,

 b) you can’t face the rejection,

or

c) you think your request will be met with crickets?

I’m guessing that the majority of you will fear one of those outcomes. Based on past experience, based on how things usually are. But what if things were different this year? What if you did it differently?

Open the Christmas conversation now

If you’ve always left it until the last minute to pussy-foot around this subject, and it hasn’t gone well for you, start now. The earlier you open up the dialogue, the easier it will be in reality. You may feel that there’s a longer time to fight and disagree – you might be right, but there’s also more time to resolve the conflict and, with matters less pressing, its likely to be calmer. If you stay calm. So, how can you have a reasonable conversation about Christmas?

Remember, its not about you

Christmas arrangements for your children are never about you, whether you are a mother or a father. Child Arrangements are about arrangements for the children. The law says that your children have a right to enjoy a relationship with both parents, unless the courts say otherwise. That means whether you like your former partner or not, whether you want your children to have a relationship with them or not, it is your duty as a parent to positively promote that relationship. Generally speaking (and yes every case is different), a court would expect parents to share the Christmas period alternately, i.e. you wake up with the children one year, and the following year, their other parent does, or alternatively, share part of the big day itself (this can work if you live close by and have a good relationship with your former partner). Why do you need to know this? Well, if you are a parent seeking arrangements to see your children this Christmas, know that the law favour your endeavours. If you are a parent trying to prevent that (without the authority of a court or social services), you are placing yourself in difficulty and not focusing on the best interests of your children. So, as much as you may not want to accept it, for the sake of yourself and your children, move forward.

If you are the parent that is seeking the arrangements because your children live with their other parent more than they live with you, remember that how you approach the other parent will have a bearing on how the request is received.

  • Before you make the request, know exactly what you want and why. Think about how you can arrange for the children to see (Skype) or talk to the other parent over the time you have them. Reassure that you will continue any family traditions that exist that are important to the children.
  • Start by acknowledging how difficult it is for the other parent to think of Christmas Day without their children (this does not make them right to prevent contact). Every parent wants to wake up with their children on Christmas morning. Perhaps you already know how difficult it is. Showing that you understand how they feel builds rapport.
  • Talk about your children first, not you. Talk about the children enjoying time with you and the things you have planned. Do not tell your children about this until arrangements are in place.
  • Don’t threaten them with court, suggest mediation if you cant agree
  • Remember to thank the other parent for listening. Good manners cost nothing and go a long way.

It’s never easy making arrangement to see your children over the festive period, when in reality, both parents would want to spend as much time with the children as possible. However, its important if you are newly separated and divorced that you begin to build new family traditions and ways of handling the situation as soon as you can. Children are very resilient. For them, Christmas is when YOU say it is. It’s the adults involved that get caught up in the ‘rules’. Make new rules. Have Christmas on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day or at New Year. What is important is that your children get to spend quality time with both of you, that they have fun, and that they know that they can spend time with both of you  with the blessing of their other parent. That’s the best gift you can give your children this Christmas.