Making your family work at Christmas

Christmas is inevitably a time for families so it’s also a time that can bring real difficulties for separated families, especially if this is your first Christmas after the end of your relationship and you have children.

It takes time to build up new traditions and arrangements but there are some definite “dos and don’ts” that can help if you’re in this situation.

  • Do try and agree arrangements for the children well in advance of the Christmas period. Term dates are always available online and trying to sort out what’s going to happen early on gives you plenty of time to identify, and hopefully resolve, any issues.
  • Don’t get hung up on dates. Many families agree an arrangement whereby children alternate spending Christmas and New Year with each parent.  If it’s your year to have your children for New Year rather than Christmas make that your celebration.  The more relaxed you are about arrangements the more your children will be able to enjoy what they will usually see as two Christmas celebrations!
  • Don’t try and mimic the past. You can have fun making new traditions rather than fixating on doing everything the way you used to do it.
  • Christmas isn’t a competition. Don’t use present buying as an opportunity to point score.  Try and liaise if you can about gifts to ensure that your children don’t end up with two of everything!
  • Don’t make rules about what the children can do with their gifts. They will no doubt be keen to take what they’ve been given to show their other parent and to bring back to you things they’ve received there.  It’s important for them that they feel able to do this and not that they have to keep gifts from each parent at that parent’s house.
  • Don’t “hex your ex”! If your wider family are joining you for Christmas they may well have certain views about your former partner which they’re keen to air – especially after a glass or two of mulled wine!  Try and make clear to your family before they arrive that you won’t tolerate anything negative being said in front of the children however strongly they may feel.  If inappropriate comments are made, bring the conversation to an end however tempted you may be to join in.  There’s a time and a place and this isn’t it.
  • It’s the season of goodwill – if your former partner is coming to collect or return your children make it clear that you don’t expect them to sit outside in the car waiting for the children to appear. Of course there are some situations where contact between you just isn’t an option but if it’s possible for your children to see you behaving in a civilised and respectful fashion towards one another it will be a real help to them as they adjust to their changed circumstances.
  • It may be that you have a new partner. If you have, don’t decide that Christmas is the perfect time to introduce your children to them.  As parents move on from their separation it’s almost inevitable that either or both will form new relationships.  The introduction of children to a new partner is something that needs to be handled carefully and sensitively and Christmas, with the stresses and strains that always come at this time of year really isn’t the time to take that step.

At Stokes Partners, our family team have over 91 years experience providing specialist, expert family law advice.  If you’re going through a relationship breakdown facing separation, divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership come and talk to us.  We’ll give you realistic, pragmatic and cost effective advice.  We know that you’re facing a difficult situation and we’re here to help you through it.

Whatever your circumstances, Stokes Partners LLP wish you a good Christmas and a positive New Year.