The Christmas season is upon us and it can be a wonderful celebration of family and friends. For those in separated and/or blended families it may not be quite the joyous experience you dream of as it may come with the stress and tension of juggling family time with others.
To help negotiate some of those trickier situations, we have put together some tips and tricks to help minimise anxiety and enable a focus on what’s important; quality time with family and friends.
Common Time Arrangements at Christmas
If you haven’t yet organised a time arrangement for Christmas, an easy and common agreement is from 4:00pm on Christmas Eve to 4pm Christmas day allowing enough time for family Christmas lunch, followed by 4:00pm Christmas Day to 4:00pm Boxing Day. An alternative arrangement might also be from 9:00am Christmas Eve to 1:00pm Christmas Day, followed by 1:00pm Christmas Day to 5:00pm Boxing Day. The usual living arrangements then re-commence on Boxing Day.
If this doesn’t work for your family, having a flexible approach can help both parties agree to alternative arrangements ensuring holiday commitments can be met. This arrangement is generally swapped the following year to ensure your children have the opportunity to share the experience of a full and relaxed holiday equally with each of their parents.
The key is to have open and mindful communication with the other parent to ensure the children can emotionally and physically adjust to plans, and families can make the most of their celebrations. Importantly, confirm arrangements every year well in advance, and in writing, even if Christmas plans are the same each year. If you’re wanting a little extra time, allow additional time for negotiation, and be considerate of all involved to ensure everyone’s plans can be stress free.
Parents may get caught up in their emotional distress during this time of year, and can sometimes lose sight of what’s important to their children. If changeover is requested for 2:00pm instead of 1:00pm, ask yourself “how does this one hour impact our children?” If there is no issue, tis’ the season to be flexible and let the children enjoy the extra hour.
Being courteous will go a long way – you may not be partners anymore, but you are still parents, and it’s important everyone gets to enjoy Christmas including your children. Be sure to keep an eye on the time, remember to take into consideration extra holiday traffic and be on time for changeover. Let the other parent know when you’re leaving, or if you’re running late, or caught in traffic.
Put the Children Ahead of Yourself
Children do not understand adult issues and when they see a parent distressed or emotional about arrangements with the other parent, sadly it is very common for them to feel responsible. This should be in the back of your mind when organising Christmas – you may not want your ex to “win”, however saving yourself and the children the emotional stress really leaves you in the better position.
Always ask yourself, “Will the children benefit from this?” – if it’s yes, and it usually is, try your best to make it work.
Be Willing to Negotiate and Compromise
Everyone has their special holiday traditions, and everyone thinks theirs are the most important. Generally though, your children don’t mind what’s happening as long as they spend quality time with both parents.
Post-separation holiday time is all about compromise. Each parent may have very special family traditions such as Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve, and being mindful that your children will have two sets of special family traditions is important.
Consider which traditions are important to you, which ones the children may enjoy most, and try to prioritise and organise your time around those. Other lesser important traditions may need to be changed to ensure the children can enjoy special moments with both their Mum and Dad. And remember, the time arrangement alternates each year, so the children will have an opportunity to join in on traditions the following year!
Additionally, consider potential special festive arrangements, such as family members attending who your children may not have seen for an extended period of time. It’s always good to connect with family and friends and if you’re flexible in the event of special arrangements for the other parent, this may benefit you if the same arises for you.
Ultimately, enjoying this time with your children and creating memories is what’s important, without ex-partner tension and disagreements. Compromise and mindful communication will benefit everyone during this time – remember it’s only three days of the year, and memories can be created all year round!