The festive holidays are always a potential sticking point when parents separate – whether you’re in the midst of a divorce or trying to put it all behind you. It can be tricky to stay calm and objective when it comes to dividing up time with your your kids, coping with the stresses of the holidays as a lone parent, or feeling isolated and jealous when the kids are with your partner. But rather than letting it all get you down and causing new quarrels, plan ahead and take practical steps to help things run as smoothly as possibly for everyone.
Here are five ways to have a happy Christmas and pave the way for many more to come as a separated parent:
- Start talking about holiday arrangements as early as possible. Remember, solicitors are likely to be closed over the Christmas and New Year period. Don’t wait until the week before the kids break up from school to decide who’s having them when. If you’re using mediation as a method of separation, this is a good topic to bring up with your mediator who can help you come to a beneficial decision. Some parents choose to alternate each year: one parent has the kids on Christmas day this year, the other has them the next. Others may need to arrange things around work commitments, resulting in a less consistent schedule. No matter what you decide, try to make it fair and let go of the idea that you must celebrate on a particular day – make the most of your time off and create your own special days and traditions whenever you have your kids with you. And look for the best in your situation – your children get to have two celebrations instead of just one!
- Don’t try to out-do one another. Parenting separately is not a competition, and the amount you spend on your children at Christmas should not be an attempt at one-upmanship. Divorce is hard enough on your finances as it is, without getting into debt for the sake of ‘proving’ something to your ex. If there’s something a bit more expensive you’d like to get for your children, why not see if your ex is prepared to go halves on it? Or agree to fix a budget so that you are both on equal ground when it comes to present-buying? Show your children a united front and keep it fair.
- Keep criticism of your ex to a minimum – especially in front of your children – even if they’ve let you and the kids down over the holidays. It can be hard to detach from the emotional side of separation but badmouthing and griping about your ex’s behaviour won’t help your situation. If you need to vent, talk to a friend, take some time out, or solicitor about practical ways to resolve your disputes.
- Try to factor in time for extended family members, too. Sometimes grandparents draw the short straw when couples divorce and lose out on time with their grandchildren during the holidays. Just as you may need to rejig your ideas of a ‘traditional’ festive period to accommodate your ex, see if you can arrange a special day or time to meet up with extended family and friends as well. But remember that it’s not up to you to make all the sacrifices – don’t run yourself ragged trying to work around everyone else’s schedule – let your family know if you’re finding organisation difficult and let them help you find a solution that makes everyone happy.
- If you’re the one left alone over the holidays, don’t let it get you down. Start planning early and see if you can make arrangements with friends or family so that you have company. Treat yourself to a fun night out – or simply enjoy the peace and quiet during your time off! And if you’re feeling sad without the kids, why not see if your ex is happy for you to phone or Skype on Christmas day.
However you spend the festive holidays, remember that you’re not alone. Lean on the support of your friends and family, and use the expertise and experience of your solicitor to help you find the best way forward through divorce and beyond. Speak to the family lawyers at Frances Lindsay & Co for advice on mediation, collaborative family law and divorce – and make sure you find time to look after yourself over the seasonal period.Tags: divorce advice, divorce lawyer Beaconsfield, divorce solicitor Maidenhead, divorce solicitor Thames Valley, separation at Christmas