Christmas after divorce can be a challenging and emotional time. It can be an equally challenging and emotional time if you are having relationship difficulties and contemplating a separation. But, if you have already made the decision, it might be the first holiday period when you are faced with contemplating not celebrating Christmas as a family unit or perhaps being at some distance from your children on Christmas Day.
There are many different arrangements that we see people creating for the holiday season. Many opt to tailor the arrangements to family circumstances depending on traditions and how they have celebrated in the past.
What is really important at this time is to try to to minimise disagreements by communicating beforehand.
Having helped hundreds of parents navigate this very tricky time of year in the past, to help you in the approach to the holiday season, I have four recommendations for you that have proven helpful to other parents when facing a very different festive season.
Consider having an early discussion about what the plans are, how you will navigate arrangements for the children and how they can spend time with both of you. Try to be as specific as possible when you do reach agreements so that the chance of miscommunication is minimised to avoid impacting you or the children down the track.
It is also helpful to take a cooperative approach. If there is a particular event that you know is important to the other person’s family, being mindful of this can will hopefully lead to some return of favour down the line. If it is your family who has an important event, look at negotiating respectfully with an offer of another event or occasion that is important to your former partner.
There are a variety of different arrangements that separated parents come to. One parent might have Christmas Eve and then there is a changeover for the children to go to the other parent sometime during Christmas Day. There is no ‘one size fits all’. Some people agree for one parent to have the whole of the Christmas period if it is difficult for them to share the day and then alternate the following year. It depends on what your circumstances are including the distance between the two of you and what other celebrations people have with their respective, extended families as to how that model works. It is not easy, but what is clear is that it does require some compromise.
Ensure you plan for communication with the children during this time. Knowing when the children will phone, Skype or Facetime is helpful for the parent not with the children but importantly, for the children as well.
If you can start discussions on a good and positive note, that will possibly put you in good stead down the line.
2. If an agreement can’t be reached, seek advice early
If you can’t reach an agreement, think about taking some action early and getting some advice about what your options are for holiday periods in the future. That way you can get some clarity about where you stand, get some assistance in how to negotiate arrangements, even if it is too late for this approaching holiday season.
Aim to reach an early agreement so that you avoid tension before it arises and listen to and be guided by, the children’s wishes. Put the children’s desires ahead of your own and get some help if you can’t reach an agreement, seek some counselling or advice from a family lawyer to help you craft a parenting plan that will assist in helping you avoid some of these difficult moments down the track. Being proactive about this rather than reactive will assist to minimise issues in future.
3. Your children will need some help
Despite how difficult it may be, your children may need some help either by you offering reassurance about the new arrangements or practically, in getting a gift for their other parent or the other set of grandparents. Put some thought into how you can assist your child so that you can start things off in a proactive and positive way that will help lay good foundations for a positive co-parenting relationship down the line. If a child is reassured by you that you will be okay, that will usually assist them with adjusting to the arrangements also.
4. Think about planning for new traditions
Mentally preparing yourself for the fact that this year might be different to the past is important. If the children aren’t with you, consider how you can keep yourself busy rather than being at a loose end. Planning some self-care and activities in advance will be helpful.
Write a list of activities you would like to do, whether it be hiking, cooking, reading a book – whatever it is that will restore you – and plan what you will do with the days that you expect you will need some self-care. Ensure you include activities that mean you will connect with others rather than be alone and plan in advance.
Whatever agreement you reach, if you formalise it in a either a parenting plan or a consent order, it is likely to minimise that kind of conflict down the line because you will have a blueprint to work from. These formalised approaches will still allow you to have flexibility by agreement moving forward.
So, aim to reach an agreement early on to avoid tension, be guided by your children’s’ wishes, seek help if you can’t reach an agreement and ensure in all of this, you plan ahead for your own self-care this holiday season.
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Phillips Family Law is an award winning Family Law practice serving clients across Australia and abroad. Regardless of where you are in your decision making process, we can make you aware of your options. To discuss your situation confidentially phone +61730079898 or secure a time by clicking here.