The weeks leading up to Christmas can be a busy time for family lawyers as we help and support parents settle arrangements for their children over the Christmas period. It can be such a sensitive issue because Christmas is so sentimental and you want that time of year to be perfect for you and your family. Most parents want their children with them on Christmas day especially parents of small children who love watching their children wake up with so much excitement because Father Christmas has arrived and they delight watching their children open their presents.
Parents who have separated also want to have the best Christmas with their children and it can be really hard for some parents to agree arrangements between them so here are some tips from the family lawyers at Townsend’s to keep Christmas merry even when the family are not together.
TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN
Ask your children about where they would like to be for Christmas. One thing we have learnt as lawyers at Townsends is that children get frustrated when they feel their feelings and wishes have not been canvassed or taken into account. You never know, they might come up with an idea that you haven’t thought of.
DON’T ASK THEM TO CHOOSE
All most children want to do is please both parents and make them happy. Delegating the decision to children places them under unnecessary pressure and in time may lead to resentment. At Christmas it’s your job as parents to make the festive season as happy, cosy and memorable for them. Loved and happy children are likely to mature into happy and well adjusted adults.
CAN WE SHARE CHRISTMAS DAY?
Younger children might want to wake up in their usual bed on Christmas morning to see if Father Christmas has been and to open their presents with their siblings and step siblings. Think about if you could share Christmas Day so that you both have the joy of spending time with our children. The day could be split in two with one parent having the morning and the other the evening.
ALTERNATING CHRISTMAS DAYS
If sharing Christmas day doesn’t work the next best thing is alternating Christmas day. Children usually get two weeks off at Christmas and if you are sharing the Christmas school holidays a natural change over date tends to be Boxing Day. This arrangement usually involves one parent having the children the first week of the school holidays to include Christmas day and the other having the next week including New Years Eve and Day with the handover on boxing day. You might want to consider some time on Christmas Eve for the parent who doesn’t have Christmas day that year.
ENCOURAGE TELEPHONE AND SKYPE TIME OVER CHRISTMAS
It is perfectly natural for children to want to speak to parents when they are not staying with them. Children can worry about parents when they don’t see them and as parents would should encourage children to keep in contact. Children might worry that the parent they are not spending time with over Christmas is alright and regular calls and Skype can reassure them that their parent is not lonely.
IT’S NOT A COMPETITION
It’s never a good idea to “out buy” your ex partner on Christmas presents for the children. More stuff doesn’t equal more love. What children want is to spend quality time with their parents and to have their undivided attention. That means so much to a child. Communicate with each other over present buying to avoid duplication which is such a waste. You could both set a financial limit for what you are going to buy. Avoid compensating children because you are not living together any more. This raises children’s expectations and can make it hard for a parent who, for financial reasons, cannot match that level of spending.
AVOID THE NEGATIVE
Children can have big ears. With family members around and the babycham flowing you might be tempted to complain about your ex which your children could pick up, influence them against the other parent or worse they could tell them what you said the next time they see them.
IT’S ALL IN THE COMMUNICATION
Keeping lines of communication about your children open is so important provided that it is safe. When a break up has been bitter, it’s hard to be nice to someone who you feel has completely let you down. But, this time of year is not just about you. It’s about your children. Every parent wants to make Christmas such a special and memorable time of year.
At Townsend Family Law we offer a no obligation one hour fixed fee consultation at half our hourly rate. Should you require assistance please telephone us on 01992 892214.