What do the children really want this Christmas?
Christmas is fast approaching and there are some Christmas preparations that, unlike present buying and tree decorating, can’t be left to the last minute.
For a quarter of all families whose parents live separately, arranging contact over Christmas can be a difficult time. In many of these cases, both parents want to experience the joy of having their children wake up with them on Christmas morning.
While it is always hoped that separation can be agreed with both parents putting the children at the centre of the arrangements and trying to ensure that Christmas is a fun and enjoyable time, this is not always possible.
Many separated families fall into a pattern of taking turns in having the children over Christmas. However, for those still in the early days of separation, making these arrangements can be fraught with emotion.
Here are some ideas on how to arrange contact with your children over Christmas:
A good idea would be to discuss both the Christmas and New Year periods well in advance, giving both parents time to make suggestions and come to an amicable solution. As last minute discussions can add to the feelings of panic, talking about it in advance helps both parents to plan and hopefully keep the festivities as stress-free as possible.
Remember that this is not about what you want, but about what is best for your children; put their feelings first in all discussions with your ex-partner. While you may want to split Christmas day in half think about whether this is fair on them, especially if long distances are involved. Children would rather be with family on Christmas day than being driven from house to house.
A popular choice for separated families is to celebrate Christmas twice; this often means Christmas Day with one parent and Boxing Day with the other, alternating each year.
Once you have come to an agreement on the Christmas arrangements, tell your children so they feel reassured knowing they’ll be able to spend time with both parents. Although it can be hard, be positive about the other parent as it is very difficult for a child to hear negative comments about their parents.
Contact When It Is Not Your Turn
If it is your turn to have the children, find out if your ex-partner would still like to talk to them on Christmas day. Often a quick call, Skype or Facetime can be reassuring for both the children and the absent parent.
When You Cannot Agree
The greatest gift you can give your child is to love them more than you hate your ex-spouse; this allows you to make decisions in the best interests of your child.
However, if you are struggling to reach an agreement you may wish to speak to a solicitor who can help negotiate a fair agreement on your behalf.
Making arrangements for your children is best achieved by talking to each other, unless there is a safety issue which prevents this. However, the breakdown of a relationship can make having a calm and rational discussion seem impossible at times.
This is where mediation can help. Trained mediators can assist with discussing the situation, giving you both the opportunity to have your opinion heard and providing you with the tools to come up with a workable solution for all involved.
If mediation fails then you can apply to court for a Child Arrangements Order. This sets out who has contact with the child, how often this will be and for how long, as well as the issue of who is the resident parent.
Court proceedings should always be a last resort- it can be a stressful and expensive experience. Before making an application for an order it’s advisable to seek legal advice.
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