Keeping the happy in Christmas when families split

Christmas is a time of year when families traditionally spend quality time together and the holiday is supposed to provide time to relax and enjoy a much-needed break from the hectic day-to-day routines of our busy lives.

However, as many parents will be well aware, the festive season can also bring additional stresses and strains such as money worries and the challenge of ensuring that the children have a special time.

For divorced or separated parents, those stresses and strains are heightened as they struggle to give their children a happy Christmas, as part of two families living apart.

Nevertheless, problems can be kept to a minimum if the thorny issue of contact is addressed before the holidays arrive.

Relationship Coach Clare Walters from Dovetail Divorce, a consortium of lawyers, mediators, financial advisors and coaches says: “We know that for divorced or separated parents, the Christmas holidays require careful planning to ensure that the needs of children are put first.

“Sadly it is all too common for estranged couples to have difficulty in reaching an agreement as to how to share the care of their children over the Christmas and New Year holidays. This is completely understandable as both parents will naturally want to spend as much time with their children as they possibly can. But if everything is to go smoothly, the reality is that compromises will have to be made.”

If you are a separated parent and haven’t yet agreed with your ex how you’re going to share the care of the children over Christmas, you really do need to begin tackling it now.

Here are a few things you can try to make the holiday season easier for all, but particularly the children:

  • Bear in mind that Christmas apart will be hard for all of you, not just the children. You need to acknowledge your own emotions and take stock of the fact that you will need extra support.
  • Talk to your children and let them know what Christmas will be like for your family this year. Although it may seem obvious, try to find the time to have a chat about what might be different from Christmas last year and what will stay the same.
  • Find out from your children what is important to them and also ask them what they’ll find difficult. Although this might be a tough conversation to have, avoiding talking about this can make it harder for your children.
  • Focus on creating new traditions and try to avoid going into overdrive over preparations.
  • Try to spend as much quality time as you can with your children as this is a great way of offering valuable reassurance.
  • Do your best to minimise potential conflict with your ex at this time of year and, although it’s great if you can join in social events together, it’s only a good idea if you can keep things free from tension.
  • When it comes to buying presents for your children, communicate with your ex over this and, if possible, try to buy joint gifts. Never try to compete or over-compensate when it comes to buying presents and let your children decide where and when they are going to open them.