The Christmas and New Year season can be a time of sadness, disagreement and frustration for families that are separated or divorced, particularly those experiencing their first festive season in a shared parenting situation. Navigating this period after separation can be daunting and often leads to disappointment for both parties, however there are some measures that you can implement to ensure this period is still an enjoyable time for you and your children.
Plan ahead and communicate:
A plan arranged well-before the holiday season and agreed upon by both parties is a successful way to minimise disagreement and uncertainty, as well as provide structure for your children to ensure the festive season remains an exciting and joyous time. Although many parties will be unable to agree on arrangements, it is necessary to at least consider negotiating and proposing shared time, particularly around Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Any agreed arrangements should be finalised as early as possible, to avoid confusion and allow parties to prepare for the period and make adequate arrangements for celebrations and changeover.
Be prepared to create new traditions:
Christmas celebrations and arrangements in your new shared parenting situation may seem daunting and it is normal to fear the unknown, however it is important to remember the significance of this time for your children and make an effort to celebrate with them. Children experiencing their first shared Christmas arrangement are likely to feel confused and unsecure, so making an effort to listen to their wishes and create a happy environment is important. Continuing some traditions will enable children to feel stable and promote continuity, however it is also important to build new traditions with your children as you re-build your own life. Develop fresh positive routines that your children can look forward to, and that allows them to form a bond with you individually.
Challenge your own perceptions of Christmas:
Christmas traditions and celebrations don’t have to be limited to December 25. Spread out events and time spent together over Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, or even in the week leading up to Christmas when many take leave from work. Children will often love the novelty of two Christmases; more opportunities for celebration and the coming together of family is a good distraction and a successful way to build stronger relationships with your children.
Ensure the children remain the centre of attention:
Avoid conflict with the other party during this time. If needed, limit direct changeovers, particularly on Christmas Day which can escalate and ignite emotions, and detract from quality time spent with parents and family. Further, don’t compete with the other party. Allow your children to enjoy the day with those that they love and those who care for them, avoiding conflict and focusing on creating an atmosphere of joy and love to celebrate the festive season.