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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

Our separation and divorce lawyers can assist you through the process  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.