Now bonfire night has passed and thoughts turn to the festive period, separated parents may find themselves trying to navigate arrangements for the children. Factoring time with wider family members and prioritising the children spending quality time with both parents during such a busy period can be challenging.
Where should parents start?
Making plans for the festive period early is essential as leaving plans until the last minute can often bring added stress, difficulty in managing expectations and time pressure. Emotions are often heightened at this time of year and early planning alleviates as much stress as possible.
There is no right or wrong answer in terms of time spent with each parent and every family will be different but the priority is ensuring that the children are spending quality time with both parents over the festive period. Some families choose to have two separate Christmas Days, others may divide the day in half or alternate each year.
When thinking about the arrangements there are a few other elements that would be useful and helpful to consider.
- Travel time between parents and wider family members – no time or not enough time can add unnecessary stress.
- Christmas isn’t just one day so consider the build up to and the time between Christmas and New Year – it can be great family time.
- If children make a list for Father Christmas, can both parents be involved and agree on what they will buy the children for their main gift? This can avoid unnecessary surprises and parents trying to outdo one another.
- If the children are not going to see one parent on Christmas Day, could a call (telephone or video) be facilitated at an agreed time so they are able to share what presents they received and the absent parent can feel part of their day – a call can go a long way.
Looking to next year
Once a plan has been agreed or while considering one, think about whether this can be replicated each year or alternated. This will ensure that the children get to enjoy the time with both parents and know what to expect.
The festive period provides a time for reflection so a good time to think about what has worked well or not so well and whether anything could be tweaked for next year. It may provide the opportunity for parents to consider what will need to happen the following year with regard to schooling, holidays and general support for the children.
An amicable arrangement is always preferable, if possible, for everybody’s sake but especially for the children involved. If an agreement cannot be reached, there is a variety of help available to separated parents – such as mediation and as a very last resort an application can be made to court.
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