how to have a happy family Christmas

'tis the season: how to have a happy family Christmas

Christmas is for many the most wonderful time of the year. It’s also pretty challenging, requiring huge amounts of organisation and attention, and for those parents who are separated, it can bring many additional complications for family life. Trying to agree contact arrangements and when or where the children will spend time with each of their parents can be difficult at any time of year, but around special events like Christmas, when expectations are high, it can feel overwhelming.

Issues of managing and maintaining contact with children following separation can clearly become a difficult issue for parents living apart, but keen to spend a special time of year surrounded by their loved ones.

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Putting the children first

Any difficulties in the relationship may well be those of the parents, but it is the children who can reluctantly find themselves in the midst of adult arguments, confused that those to whom they look for guidance are not getting along and often incorrectly blaming themselves for either parents’ upset or even anger.  It is easy and perhaps natural for a parent going through such a difficult time to concentrate on themselves at these times, but it is very important, when trying to sort arrangements out amicably, not to lose focus of a child’s needs or emotional wellbeing when they may already be feeling overwhelmed and trying to understand why their parents might not be friends, as  well as distress and confusion about their new family circumstances.

If charged with deciding, the court will determine matters in accordance with what is in a child’s best interests. As such, even if not what you want to hear personally, try and listen to your children, they may well help you in taking a step back from your own bubble and decide what’s best for them.

Good forward planning and open lines of communication with the other parent are essential when working to organise your children’s Christmas. Despite the past – and sometimes there have been genuinely challenging times – there are families out there who are so determined to make sure their children and even extended family will be happy, that they celebrate Christmas together. For some separated parents however, this is out of the question. You must, if you can, find a way through this because it will be worth it, not just in the short term, but also in the long.

Regardless of whether you and your former partner are on good terms or not, taking time to plan your child’s Christmas ahead gives each other time to come to a mutual decision about what’s best, from selecting Christmas presents together or arranging how and where the children are going to spend time with each of their parents over Christmas.

And it’s not just parents to consider, modern families come in all wonderful shapes and sizes. There’s no one-size-fits-all arrangement and it’s likely you will have to factor in how extended family from both sides of the family and other siblings can be brought into consideration and make the arrangements as special as they can be. Times that by two parents and it’s a lot of organisation.

There is a way through

I have seen arrangements agreed where the children have spent the first half of Christmas Day with one parent, opening their presents and having an early lunch before being able to spend the afternoon and evening with the other parent.  Some families even have two “Christmas Days” celebrated with either parent and alternated each year, particularly if families are separated by distance and decide to take turns to have the children with themselves over Christmas or New Year.

It isn’t easy but it needn’t be difficult either. A little bit of seasonal good will can go a long way and I would encourage you to try and give a little so as to reach an agreement that suits everyone involved, particularly your children.

And when the big day is over, sit down, put your feet up, crack open the Quality Street, and congratulate yourself on doing your very best to give your family a very merry Christmas.


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