For most, Christmas is a joyous time, when families come together to celebrate the festive season. Sadly, the season of goodwill can also be a difficult time for separated families, particularly in circumstances where the parents’ separation remains tainted with acrimony and bad feeling. Here, Amy Chapman, a family solicitor at York-based Langleys Solicitors, offers some advice and tips on how separated parents can help the Christmas season run smoothly when it comes to their children.
It is extremely important for separated parents to acknowledge that, in the vast majority of cases, their children will benefit from spending time with each parent and their respective extended families over the festive season. It should not be about what one parent “wants” or believes they are entitled to but more what will be beneficial to the children.
Here are some tips which parents may find useful in order to avoid – or at least limit – unhappiness and stress at this time of year:
- Even if it proves to be impossible for both parents to see the children on Christmas day itself, many separated parents will make alternative arrangements. Some parents, for example, may alternate Christmas Day year on year, so that in year one the children spend Christmas Day with one parent and in year two Christmas Day is spent with the other parent and so on. In the event that the children are not spending Christmas Day with you this year, perhaps they could spend Christmas Eve, Boxing Day or New Year with you instead, thereby enjoying a ‘second Christmas Day’. On such occasions it has been known for Father Christmas to deliver presents to both homes so that the children can open some at one parent’s home and some at the other’s.
- Make sure that the arrangements for the children over the festive period are agreed well in advance. This will provide the family with certainty and also avoid any last minute disputes which may cause a significant amount of upset.
- It is important, particularly in the case of younger children, to avoid both parents buying identical gifts for your child or children. Dialogue between the parents is clearly very important in this respect. It is similarly important that parents do not adopt a ‘competition mentality’ when purchasing gifts. Children can be very astute at recognising that they can capitalise on such a situation which can often lead to feelings of resentment.
- If it proves impossible for one parent to see the children on Christmas Day every effort should be made to ensure that the children should speak to the absent parent at some point during that day.
- If verbal communication between the parents is not possible for any reason then consideration should perhaps be given to whether a shared diary arrangement can be put in place or alternatively, if the parties are able, arrangements can sometimes be made by way of email exchange, as long as this can be cordial.
- Most importantly of all, parents will do well to remember that at one time they thought enough of each other to take the massive step of bringing their children into this world. As such, parents should not see themselves as people who are in conflict with one another but rather as two people who both love their children unconditionally. With this in mind, if an olive branch is ever going to be extended by one parent to the other surely now is the time to do it?