With Christmas meant to be about creating happy family memories, it can be difficult when parents have separated or divorced and children are caught up in the angst. If you’re struggling with shared custody issues this Christmas, here’s some tips for helping children have a wonderful festive season, even though mum and dad are not together.
However, and speaking from experience, with a bit of organisation, a bit more of putting grievances aside, even for a short time, and a lot of remembering who Christmas is for and what it’s about, it is possible to create wonderful Christmas memories for not so ‘typical’ families.
When my ex-husband and I separated, the one thing that we agreed on, and believe me it took quite some negotiating, was Christmas. This didn’t happen straight away. The first Christmas involved a lot of tears, and quite a few terse words. But we then made a pact that from the next year on things would be different. And they were.
Our family, like many others, alternated Christmas with families each year. My ex-husband’s family all lived within about a 20 kilometre radius so catching up with them was relatively simple. However, with my family mostly interstate, it meant a bit more organising.
However, after the divorce, despite whether it was my turn to have the children, or his, for Christmas, we have never waived from the following.
Shared custody at Christmas doesn’t always mean separate celebrations
We spend every Christmas Eve is together. Whether that means he comes to us, or we go to him, we always have Christmas eve dinner together. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t always been easy, then with new partners on the scene it has become more difficult, but the one thing that has never changed is our love for our children.
So we have Christmas eve dinner together, spend the night watching the Carols, then all up early Christmas morning for breakfast and presents. Mid morning, we head our separate ways – either him heading off to see his family and the kids with me to mine, or the opposite.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not always wine and roses. And sometimes those teeth can be gritted very tightly together, but the kids love the fact we can still hold on to some family traditions, as one family.
Shared custody arrangements – Christmas is the time for giving…in
Tis the season for tempers to run hot. Even if your ex hasn’t been the best at negotiating shared custody arrangements all year (not everyone is ready to forgive and forget) Christmas, birthdays and other special occasions are the best time to “give in” on difficult shared custody arrangements. Put the children first. Make sure they have the best possible access to both parents on milestone occasions. If you can’t invite your ex to the Christmas table, you can make sure that you share Christmas Day. Mornings with mum, evening with dad… what might feel like half a Christmas for you will feel like two Christmases to them.
Grandparents at Christmas
Other alternatives could include spreading Christmas over a few days. try to arrange to stagger Christmas celebrations so that children can spend time with both parents and their families during the holidays. And remember, it’s not only the children who may miss out during separation and divorce, often the grandparents do too!
Keep connected over Christmas with tech
When the parents just cannot work together, think of other ways that the children can still ‘see’ their missing parent on Christmas Day. In these days of incredible technology, arrange a time to Skype the missing parent so that the children can still see and interact with the parent that’s not there.
And don’t leave it to the last minute to work all this out. That is just a recipe for disaster, when everyone is anxious and uptight and emotional. Try to organise it a few months out so that each party has time to digest it all, make whatever arrangements need making, and focus on the children.
After all, that is what Christmas is all about, even if you’re struggling with shared custody! Good luck in negotiating this tricky time of year, but always remember it’s really just one day!