One of the most powerful messages being broadcast at this time of year is that Christmas is a time for family. For many, this is a happy, heart-warming message but for many separated families, this can make it a difficult time of year on both an emotional and a practical level. This is especially true if it is the first Christmas since the family split up.
Make plans in advance
The holiday season can be truly hectic, so it is important to try to have plans made in advance for how the children will divide up their time. If these plans have not been made already, it is not too late and it is best to get started sooner rather than later. But what can you do if you and your former partner are simply unable to agree on a plan?
For starters, it is important to make sure you are approaching the problem from the right angle. It is absolutely crucial that the children be at the centre of the discussion. Think about what they want, and indeed what they need. Consider also that if they will be spending Christmas with one parent, then they will likely want to be reassured that the other parent is not going to be left alone and miserable. Children of separated parents are often very concerned with not making either of their parents unhappy.
It is also important to think about the practicalities. Having a clear plan in place and being ready to make it go smoothly is better for everyone involved. Plan exactly when and where handovers will take place, and how they will work.
Taking a longer-term view can often help you reach an accord. Thinking not just about the Christmas that is creeping ever closer but also next Christmas can open up new opportunities for compromise. This might be as simple as one parent conceding that the other can have the children on Christmas day this year, but on condition that the situation be reversed next time. Speaking of compromise, being prepared to do exactly that is key to successful negotiations on so many levels.
The truth is, you are not dealing with a perfect situation and there is not going to be a perfect solution for any one person. Recognising that and being prepared to look for a middle ground is hugely important in reaching an accord that everybody can accept.
The Christmas period
It is also a good idea to change your view on what and when Christmas actually is. It is easy to think it is all about Christmas day, or at most the three days from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day. It is better to think of Christmas as a whole period lasting at least a week if not two. Children have a good couple of weeks off school to spend quality time with parents, and the excitement they feel in the lead-up to Christmas can be made into a valuable part of the holidays that one parent can enjoy while the other gets the “core” part of the holiday period.