In case you haven’t been to the supermarket lately, Christmas is coming.
For many it is a time of good will and cheer and the worst thing to be said for it is a grumble about the rush to buy last minute presents or the hustle of too many parties.
But for separating or separated parents it can be extra tough; not spending time with your children over Christmas can ruin the whole thing.
Ideally, you will have already reached an agreement with your ex to split the holidays (most often considered to be Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day) or you may actually be spending some of the time altogether.
But sometimes reality doesn’t match the ideal – and there is no agreement. What happens then?
Well, that all depends on you.
Now, your first instinct might be to respond with “no that all depends on him/her.” And, you might be right, in that your ex is being unreasonable. But, as a parent I’m sure you’ve seen that how you respond to an unreasonable toddler influences how they respond to you. We adults, at times of peak stress and anxiety, are not too different from toddlers.
My first recommendation is to take a deep breath and think about what it is about Christmas that is important to you. My second tip: get creative. And my final recommendation is compromise, compromise, compromise.
· Watching your kids open presents first thing in the morning: chances are it’s important to your ex as well. Maybe you can alternate so that one year they waken at your home and then next with your ex.
· The big family meal, sharing food and stories: maybe your family celebrate at lunch, while your ex’s have theirs at dinner or even on Boxing Day. A compromise can usually be found. And if you are both fighting for Christmas Day lunch well maybe alternate it.
· The trip away to see family and friends: my first question to clients who raise this one is to ask what did you do during your relationship – did you go away every year? If you didn’t then maybe alternating is the way to continue. And if you did? Well many new traditions are created after separation and maybe alternating, perhaps with family coming to you every second year, is just one such new tradition.
As parents you are all good at putting your kids first and celebrating Christmas after separation is no different – my top tip is to remember that your children come first. Not getting more time with them than your ex. Or getting Christmas morning/lunch/the-whole-three-days. Or just keeping the fight going.
The kids won’t care if Christmas is different than before. They probably won’t really notice that it’s different. If Christmas is special for them and their extended family (both extended families) that’s all that matters for them.
So take that deep breath (or maybe two, because you probably need to take one just to brave the shops at this time of year) and remember that Christmas is a time to celebrate together with family - no matter what that looks like.