For a good portion of us, Christmas is a fun and festive time of the year, we get together with family and friends to swap presents, share meals and enjoy each other’s company.
However, for separated families, Christmas can be a time of stress, sadness and disappointment and most times the children are caught in the middle. So, what can separated parents do to make Christmas a little easier on their children and themselves?
It is important to realise that Christmas is a time for your children. Many disagreements over Christmas start because of parents’ expectations of what will happen. You expect that children will spend Christmas with you. The other parent may expect the same.
What might help
It is important that parent communicate with each other and plan for Christmas and the holiday season in advance. By planning ahead of time, everyone has a chance to be happier and far less stressed because they know what to expect.
If you make your children’s happiness your priority when making any plans, you will be well on the way to a happier time.
Understanding some simple facts about children can also help. Here’s just a few helpful thoughts:
- Children from separated families often experience a great deal of tension at Christmas.
- They often feel responsible for making both parents happy, and when they see parents argue or upset, they take it personally.
- On occasion, children feel that it is their fault that their parents broke up and struggle coming to terms with their parents not being together.
- Adults also have a greater capacity to understand and to make choices. Children don’t have these reasoning skills.
- They don’t have the understanding in life experiences that adults do. It is more difficult for them to make meaning of the situations they are in.
Understanding your children
Regardless of the situation between parents, it is important not to criticise the other parent when talking to your children. You need to accept that your children love both their parents and the relationship that they have with that parent must be protected. By criticising their other parent, you create tension and stress for your children.
Steps in avoiding conflict at Christmas:
- Discuss your ideas with your children and gain their input, (this may depend on how old they are), however, all children should have the chance to say what they want to do.
- Listen closely to what they say.
- Put their desires ahead of yours.
- Avoid situations where your children are drawn into the centre of the conflict.
- If your children’s wishes can’t be met, take the time to sit down with them and explain why.
Despite your best efforts some difficulties may still arise. You must take responsibility for what you do as a parent, however you cannot be responsible for how the other parent behaves.
Help is available
You can do everything in your power, but you may find that the other parent will not cooperate. If you find yourself in this situation, always remember that help is available.
A counsellor or support group (such as Mums/ Dads in Distress) can offer helpful advice on how to cope with difficult relationships and situations or just listen and support you.
A lawyer can also be helpful to explain the law regarding various situations with relationships and children and can give you advice about the options available to you.
Communication is the key. Start communicating well ahead of time and keep your children’s happiness as your priority and you will have made a good start to a happier Christmas.
If you would like to discuss your personal circumstances with one of our experienced family lawyers, please contact our office today. Call us on (03) 8657 3751 to organise a free 15 minute consultation or by email at email@example.com