How to do Christmas Well after Separation....If You Didn't Enjoy 2015, Plan Appropriately for 2016


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How to do Christmas Well after Separation....If You Didn't Enjoy 2015, Plan Appropriately for 2016

How to do Christmas Well after Separation….If You Didn’t Enjoy 2015, Plan Appropriately for 2016

For many families, navigating Christmas after separation is a minefield of unhappiness and a battle over who gets what days and times and where the children are for special days and special events. Perhaps that describes the parents’ feelings, but it ignores the children’s given that they are in the middle of these very fraught times when instead, they should be permitted to enjoy the magic of Christmas.

According to social scientists, children of parents who can’t get along dread Christmas, whereas the children of parents who can adequately manage their feelings and arrangements, revel in having the joy of two distinct celebrations with a wide array of family members and friends between the two households of their parents.

According to our clients, seen over the course of many years, some clients report feeling depressed or sad that their children are not with them for the first Christmas morning after separation or at New Year’s. Time seems to pass slowly and it seems forever that the children are spending time with the other parent.

Families handle things in different ways, but those who report the best outcomes, think of things from their children’s points of view.

One family reported that their children helped them decide their arrangements with the eldest of their very young children, presenting them with a proposal that they write to Santa and ask for Christmas with Mummy’s family on one day (perhaps Christmas Day) and identify where half of their presents could be delivered and Christmas with Daddy on another day (eg Boxing Day or Christmas Eve) where the remainder could be delivered. The parents were able to see sense in their children’s expectations and were rewarded with openly expressed joy when this plan was put into effect.

As parents, it would be great to think that the kids are not really focused on where they celebrate Christmas, but that wherever they are, it is a day of fun, togetherness, presents, Santa and celebration.

To help you think and plan, here is a bit of a list for you to consider and raise with your former partner:-

  1. Adopt a specific schedule – as early as is possible before Christmas, you and your former partner should agree when each of you will have the children. In the leadup to Christmas, there are too many other things that demand our attention and people are prone to stress when school and workplaces are wrapping up for the year and a list of many jobs is considered, each of which is urgent.
  2. Don’t fight unnecessarily about which days you have with the children – just remember that whenever you have them, to make it special. If someone has Christmas morning in one year, it should be able to be swapped next year. Treat your former partner with respect – the same respect that you would like to see afforded to you and in order to set an example for the children. Be prepared to compromise for the sake of the season.
  3. Reward yourself with something which takes your mind off the children being with the other parent. It may be a Christmas away or it may be a hotel celebration where Christmas lunch is put on. It may be a gathering of lovely friends and family. Bake, cook or prepare a special meal. Rewarding yourself with things that generate fun and happiness should see you in a great mood when the kids arrive to start their time with you.
  4. Ensure the children know that it is ok to have fun with each of their parents. Perhaps help them select a heartfelt gift and card for your former partner. You can often fail to appreciate what even a token gesture and thought might mean, particularly as an example to the children.
  5. Understand that whilst you used to have set traditions when you were together, that is no longer the standard. Instead, you have two households and two sets of celebratory events to consider. Ensure that your focus is considered as opposed to self-centered. Start something new and fun with the kids in mind.
  6. Be active – do something which is fun for the children instead of sitting around and moping. The endorphins involved will buoy you and improve your mood and the children’s. Make sure you choose wisely – even if it is just an outing to the beach or park.
  7. Be thoughtful – and this includes being thoughtful of the kids and their feelings and also being thoughtful of all of the other people invested in the separated family. The relationship between you as separated parents will obviously benefit from thoughtfulness at this time of year.
  8. Steer clear of excess alcohol or anti-social behaviour – whilst Christmas can be a time to let your hair down, remember that you will be responsible for the children. Demonstrating irresponsibility or marring Christmas with poor conduct whilst under the influence will undermine trust and the possibility of improved relations in the future. It will also promote the idea that the children might be at risk in your care.
  9. Be sure to spend time with people who are supportive and uplifting – remember that the children will not want to sit with Aunt Judith who has nothing nice to say about their Mother or their Mother’s family. Likewise, you won’t want to relive your separation over the occasion of Christmas. It’s likely to be one of your only holidays of the year, so make it light, enjoyable and fun.
  10. Recharge for you – as pointed out in #9, this is one of your holidays of the year. Trying to relax, unwind and recharge the batteries will make you ready to start the New Year in your personal life and career in a good frame of mind, ready for what must be done including in your role as parent and role model to the kids.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with the stressors of Christmas, take the time to see a counsellor for some advice on post-separation parenting, how to manage the conflict you might be worried about and also how to manage the children’s needs.

For those involved in very serious cases of parental conflict, talk things over with your family lawyer to see what can be done, whether this concerns guidance in how to manage your direct dealings with your spouse, having your family lawyer write on your behalf or in the worst of cases, seeking a Court outcome in relation to the arrangements for the children.

Remember that at Christmas times, Courts are overwhelmed with an influx of matters seeking access to justice and resolutions. There is often a deadline set by the Court registry which falls weeks before Christmas such that applications filed after the deadline can’t be guaranteed a hearing date to determine Christmas and Christmas holiday issues.

Have a think on this – if your situation didn’t go as planned this Christmas, consider what needs to change for next time.

Remember also that we’re here if you need us.


Dean Evans,

Evans & Company Family Lawyers