Co-parenting at Christmas – a Quick Guide for Separated Families

Christmas is considered a very special time of the year for many people around the world, but for some it can be a time of sadness and frustration.  Following a relationship breakdown, Christmas may seem like a daunting time, particularly when parenting children across separate households.

Where both parents are willing and able and there are no safety concerns to consider, the best outcome of a separation is co-parenting. This is where both parents agree to put their children’s interests first and to communicate in a respectful, child-focused way, setting boundaries and compromising to lead the way to effective co-operation.

Here are some ways in which you can ensure the best chances of ensuring a happy and healthy Christmas this year for your children:

 

  1. The kids come first

When making decisions, always consider what is in the best interests of the children. Younger children may worry about whether Santa will reach them, whilst older children might have a preference for where they spend Christmas. Bringing them into the decision-making process can be beneficial for the whole family and make children feel heard.

 

  1. Communication is key

Each parent should communicate their expectations in advance with each other as it is important that both parents understand the other’s needs. Being prepared, realistic and willing to listen and compromise may make a stressful situation more manageable.

 

  1. Sharing of Christmas presents

In regards to Christmas presents, consider agreeing on a budgetary limit so as to avoid one parent being perceived as giving more than the other. To try and preserve some form of normalcy, both parents can agree to buy one main present for each child signed from both parents. This approach will demonstrate a united front.

 

  1. Sharing of time with the children

You may decide that your children should spend Christmas Eve at one home and Christmas Day at another.  Whatever you decide when co-parenting at Christmas, you can find ways to make it special for the children, and extended family too.

 

  1. Travel arrangements

Where traveling will be involved with one of the parents over Christmas, it is advisable to make sure the other parent has agreed to the plans, or that a compromise can be made for time spent together before or after the travel period if a Parenting Plan has not yet been agreed upon.

 

  1. Avoid any fighting

When discussing Christmas plans, ensure the discussion does not end up in a fight, especially in front of the children. Research tells us that this may perpetuate any guilty feelings the children may have over the separation.  Try to communicate in a clear and respectful way and ensure the children are not exposed to a dispute.

 

  1. Send updates

Agreeing on an ‘update’ style of communication can be beneficial.  You can report on activities, send photos of particular events and help the other parent to feel involved.  Give and ask for information that you expect to get as a parent in a timely manner.

 

  1. Accommodate the feelings of the children

Where the children may start to miss the other parent, consider allowing the children to contact the parent so as to alleviate their anxiety, especially where the children are still young. It is important that the children are not made to feel guilty for experiencing such feelings or feeling ‘stuck in the middle’ of a separation.

 

  1. Involve the children in the Christmas planning

When the Christmas arrangements have been planned and agreed between both parents, it can be important to communicate these plans to the children so that they feel involved and that there are no surprises for them.

 

  1. Be flexible and listen to the needs of the children

Where the children feel uncomfortable with any Christmas plans, it is important to take their feelings into consideration and consider whether any plans could or should be amended so that they feel safe and assured. Like the first tip, the children come first, so keep their best interests at heart.

 

Holidays like Christmas may be a difficult time for children especially young children therefore it is vital that each parent put aside their feelings and ensure there is a smooth transition for the children during this time. Despite all of your efforts, it is possible that difficulties may still arise. You can take responsibility for what you do as a parent, however you cannot be responsible for how the other parent behaves. If you find yourself in this situation where the other parent will not cooperate, remember that help is available.

If you’ve tried all the above tips but have difficulties communicating with the other parent after separation, you may need to consider other options.  This may include engaging a lawyer to help negotiate plans on your behalf, or engage the assistance of a mediator to assist in facilitating an agreement.

We can assist you through the process of separation and to come to an amicable agreement regarding parenting arrangements.

Contact us today to make an appointment with Shannon Daykin, an Accredited Family Law Specialist.  Shannon was recently named as one of Brisbane’s Leading parenting lawyers in the prestigious Doyle’s Family Law Guide.  We offer a reduced fixed fee initial consultation, which can be conducted in person, by phone or by video conference.

The blog published by Daykin Family Law is intended as general information only and is not legal advice on any subject matter. By viewing the blog posts, the reader understands there is no solicitor-client relationship between the reader and the blog publisher. The blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a legal practitioner, and readers are urged to consult Daykin Family Law on any legal queries concerning a specific situation.

Protecting your mental health through separation or divorce

Separation or divorce can be an emotional journey that can have both physical and mental health effects on people.  The separation and divorce process, coupled in some situations with the family court process, can become incredibly stressful, taking a toll on the wellbeing of parties, sometimes impairing their judgment and decision-making abilities.

Literature tells us that separated couples going through the process might experience a range of overwhelming psychological symptoms that includes loneliness, sadness, shock, anger, uncertainty, guilt, betrayal, frustration, hopelessness, or a mixture of all.  These feelings can last a short-time or have a lasting impact and so it is important to deal with those feelings in a healthy way.

Mental health is a vital aspect of our wellbeing. Many people see mental health issues as only serious disorders or health conditions, however things like stress can have a big impact on mental health.  It’s easy to shrug off your own feelings, particularly when juggling work and parental responsibilities, however it’s important to prioritise self-care.

Here are a few ways parties going through a separation or divorce might consider when prioritising their mental health.

 

Ways to Protect Your Mental Health During Separation or Divorce

 

  1. Talk

It can be important to talk things out. Even when your feelings are particularly strong, you should try to communicate them to a trusted confidant.

Endeavour to build healthy relationships and surround yourself with a support team of people with similar values as you, who understand and who can listen to you.

Your support team can include a family member, friend, colleague or a third party counsellor.

 

  1. Acknowledge the pain

Acknowledging the feeling of loss caused by separation can be crucial.

When couples separate due to the death of a partner, there is a defined grieving process of denial, questioning, depression or anger, evaluation, and acceptance.

On the other hand, when a partner is lost due to separation or divorce, many partners find themselves without clear guidance on how to process the loss.

Our review of literature in this area tells us that some couples have found it helpful to follow the ‘five stages of grief’ model:

 

  • Denial

This occurs at the beginning of the separation or divorce process. At this stage, couples find it difficult to accept that the relationship is coming to an end.

It can be normal to have a feeling of denial when you go through such a major life-changing event as separation or divorce. It is a form of coping mechanism people use.

 

  • Questioning

At this stage, you question whether there is a way you could have handled things differently besides going through separation or divorce. At this point, you may wish you could change the past and the events that led to the relationship breakdown.

 

  • Depression or Anger

You may experience anger, anxiety, depression as different negative feelings begin to emerge. At this stage, you may benefit from the added support of loved ones or professionals.

 

  • Evaluation

At this stage, you might begin to weigh the reasons that your relationship didn’t work and this may include taking responsibility for your part in the breakdown.

The factors that led to the breakdown of your relationship may be difficult to process, but evaluating what went wrong and taking ownership where required can help in moving on.

While evaluating, no matter what caused the breakdown of the relationship, it is important to allow yourself to acknowledge the emotions that come with this stage.

 

  • Acceptance

This is the stage where you accept what has happened and take steps to move on or look towards the future.

It is important to remember that every individual is unique and process grief differently. It may be totally normal if you don’t fit into a particular grieving model.

 

  1. Maintain physical health

We all know that physical health is closely connected with mental health. Stress that persists for a long time can cause health problems which can have a tremendous impact on mental health.

It therefore becomes paramount that you maintain or improve your physical health when going through the process of separation or divorce.

It might be of help to partake in stress-reducing physical activities that fit into to your lifestyle such as swimming, walking, jogging, bike riding, or having a good night’s sleep.

 

  1. Stay positive

It can be daunting to have a positive outlook when dealing with an intense life transition such as separation or divorce.

It is crucial however to try to swap the negative feelings and emotions that come along with positive thoughts. Positive emotions have a way of translating to healthy mental wellbeing.

Think of the things that are within your control and then make a plan to improve them, if needed.

Optimistic thinking has been shown to enhance mental and overall health.

 

  1. Take time to review what matters to you

The mental stress of divorce or separation can make you lose yourself. This might be a good time to review what matters to you and a time for reconstructing who you are again.

Find what matters to you – this could be spiritual or religious beliefs, music, art, or other activities or hobbies that bring you joy. Rediscovering purpose and remembering the positives in life promotes good mental health. It can also be a means of coping through separation or divorce.

At a stressful time, it is vital to have a trusted advisor on side to help you through the maze of separation. At Daykin Family Law, we strive to make the separation and divorce process as collaborative and conflict-free as is possible.

 

Daykin Family Law’s Director, Shannon Daykin, is a Brisbane based family lawyer and an Accredited Family Law Specialist with a wealth of experience and expertise in family law.  If you’re considering your options for divorce resolution and would like to keep the matter as stress-free as possible, contact us today for a no obligation consultation to find out if it’s right for you.

If you are concerned about your mental health or wellbeing, we recommend that you contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

The blog published by Daykin Family Law is intended as general information only and is not legal advice on any subject matter. By viewing the blog posts, the reader understands there is no solicitor-client relationship between the reader and the blog publisher. The blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a legal practitioner, and readers are urged to consult Daykin Family Law on any legal queries concerning a specific situation.