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Co-parenting Christmas: How to get through the festive period

Christmas is an exciting time for families particularly for those with young children. It’s a time to look forward to all those traditional things you do as a family together. Like decorating the tree, watching your favourite Christmas movie, helping to prepare the festive feast or listening to Granddad snoring in front of the TV. Just thinking about these makes you feel warm inside.

For families going through a separation or divorce though, it can be a very different story. Traditions can be turned upside down and what once made you feel great now brings emotional pain and stress. As Christmas draws closer, here are some suggestions to help you through the festive period:

  • Don’t leave it too late: There’s nothing worse than thinking you have agreement with your former partner about how to share the children at Christmas, only for it to fall through at the last minute. At that point there is nothing that anyone can do to make the situation any better, so leave plenty of time to agree the schedule. Agree well in advance what the arrangements are. It will help smaller children in particular feel less unsettled as they will be worrying about how Santa will know where to deliver their gifts.
  • Make a plan: Ask your child what you can do together to make the transition easier and give them a chance to input as the plan takes shape. Consider making a long-term plan that is fair for all parties especially the children. Swapping Christmas and Boxing Day each year is often a good way to achieve this, giving both parents reassurance. Remember holidays can be celebrated at any time. Just because there is a designated day doesn’t mean you can’t set your own day to celebrate.
  • Put the children first: Before you make or change plans, ask yourself, “How will this affect the children?” Parents have the responsibility and privilege of setting the mood for the holidays. Making decisions based on their needs will help them adjust to this situation and create pleasant memories.
  • Be prepared: Accept that things may change at the last minute, so talk with your children about the possibility of plans changing. Involve them in the process and ask them what they would like to do.

Recognising issues and dealing with them in a healthy way rather than letting things escalate and go sour is the main thing to remember here.

Remember that divorce isn’t just between two people; consider grandparents, the wider family, exes’ partners and their children, who will all want to spend time with the children over the festive break.

If you have a good relationship with your ex-partner, you may want to consider sharing previous family traditions, if you can handle these without tensions and fights it may help the children adjust to these new experiences.

If you’re experiencing the festive holidays for the first time as a separated parent, contact one of our professionals for any further information.