The weeks leading up to Christmas can be a busy time for family lawyers as we help and support separated parents settle arrangements for their children over the Christmas period. Most parents want their children with them on Christmas day. It can be really hard for some separated parents to agree arrangements between them and so, here are some top tips from the family lawyers at Townsend Family Law to make Christmas a happy and joyful one.  


Children might want to wake up in the home where they are mostly based, especially younger children who are waiting for Santa’s visit overnight. It’s important for children to share in the joy of openings presents with siblings. Think about sharing Christmas Day in a way that allows children to wake up in their own bed. The day could be split in two with one parent spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with the children and the other Christmas afternoon and Boxing Day. 


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 Year’s Eve and Day with the handover on Boxing Day. 


It is perfectly natural for children to want to speak to an absent parent over the holidays.  Children should be encouraged to speak to the parent who is not with them. Children can become anxious over an absent parent being lonely. They may have feelings of guilt. Telephone and Face time is a really good way to keep in touch to help children feel reassured that an absent parent is all right. It gives them the freedom to enjoy themselves. 


Ask your children about where they would like to be for Christmas but in a way where they are not being expected to choose. Children can really feel the pressure of conflicted loyalty. One thing we have learnt as lawyers at Townsend is that children get frustrated when they feel their wishes are not heard. You never know, they might come up with a novel arrangement that you haven’t thought of.


It’s never a good idea to “out buy” you’re 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.


Children can have big ears. With family members around and the vino flowing you might be tempted to moan about your ex in the ear shot of the children. This can lead to negative influence which risks damaging relationships between children and a parent.  


Keeping lines of communication open is so important provided that it is safe and productive. When a break up has been bitter, it can be hard to be nice towards someone you feel has completely let you down. Every parent wants to make Christmas the best for their children. Try to park those negative thoughts for the sake of the children and show your children that you can get along. 

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