The festive countdown will leave many separated spouses and their children feeling apprehensive, distressed and nervous – particularly for estranged couples who are embarking on their first Christmas post-divorce.
For the newly single, these sentiments are understandably exacerbated at what is already an emotional time of year – and if they no longer live with the children.
The partner looking after the children can likewise feel overwhelmed with the prospect of feeling they single-handedly need to organise everything and everyone.
In this scenario, effective planning, communication and a spirit of goodwill can help both parents to survive the break while keeping the children at the heart of celebrations.
Here are six top tips for reducing stress at Christmas:
- Double the magic: if you don’t spend Christmas Day with the children, why not organise a second celebration or an added treat for them? As well as enhancing their anticipation and enjoyment, it will strengthen the bonds between you.
- Talk to each other: planning ahead with regular communications should allow you to agree and organise a holiday season that will suit as many people as possible.
- Set objectives: always aim to achieve what is best for the children, despite any lingering grievances you may have. Don’t criticise your ex in front of them or ask them to take sides – as this will make them less likely to want to spend time with you.
- Be flexible: accept that children will want to see as much as possible of both parents, wider family and their friends. If that means you spend less time with them this year, discuss it reasonably with your ex and aim to make up for it next Christmas.
- Tell the children what’s happening: the further ahead you can let children know how Christmas will be spent the better; they like security and certainty – and will already have been unsettled by the split. Hopefully, keeping them informed will allow them to adjust to the Christmas changes and give them a scenario they can look forward to.
- Treat yourself: many parents hanker for a break from the children after a few days confined with them. As such, make the most of the time you’re apart; treat yourself or do something you couldn’t if they were there – and be sure not to neglect your health and wellbeing.
Simple planning and communication can help the whole family feel better about Christmas following a breakup – and could be key to more harmonious relationships in the years ahead as everyone moves on.
Kate, Head of the Children Department at Leeds and London based Jones Myers, is highly skilled in cases relating to children including contact and residence disputes. She specialises in child protection law and is a Member of the Child Care Panel with experience representing parents, guardians, Local Authorities and children.
As well as working regionally and nationally, Kate has considerable expertise in international child abduction cases and is a Member of the International Child Abduction and Custody Unit.
Kate has “Higher Court Rights,” something fewer than 2,500 solicitors have in England and Wales, which enables her to offer clients an all-round litigation service.