Five tips for co-parenting over Christmas and the festive season
As all separated or divorced parents know, the festive season, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, become bittersweet. We still adore watching our kids get excited for Santa, or presents, or special foods. And yet, at the back (or sometimes front) of our minds is the knowledge that we will need to share time with them over the holidays and try to create a co-parenting Christmas schedule that pleases both parents. We also know we won’t get to share in each and every of their special moments, and that’s really tough.
Usually, when I’m working with both parents on co-parent coaching, we come up with a Christmas plan as part of the co-parent charter that we create. Some parents take it in turns to have Christmas and New Year from one year to the next. Some manage to all get together on Christmas day. And some parents are alienated from their kids and so their children don’t get to see them at all over the holidays.
There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach, but I always encourage parents to see it from their child’s perspective. And generally, that’s being able to see both parents at some point over the holidays.
Of course, Christmas isn’t just about parents. It’s about wider families, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. It can be quite stressful for a child of divorced parents to move from one set of people to another and swap roles and house rules. One way to make it easier for your child is to be amicable and transactional. Be polite. Whatever is going on for you, remember you’re a parent and that demonstrating to your child that you can be polite to your ex will make them feel much more secure.
This is the time of year when the focus is on family, so here are five ways that you can help your child feel like they are not the odd one out:
- Share Christmas lists with your ex and agree in advance what you are going to buy.
- Try and have an hour or two as a whole unit if possible, maybe share a mince pie, or give your child a joint present. Demonstrate that you can unite for them if you need to.
- If you’re not living near each other, absolutely video call/call on Christmas day, so your child can speak to the parent they are not with.
- Have some small presents under the tree from the other parent, that your child can open. This helps your child feel held in a parental bubble and assured that you can communicate and are fine to be around each other, however you might feel inside.
- And finally at handover, always be polite, be upbeat with your child (changing houses is always a big deal), and send them off with a kiss, a hug and maybe a treat or two. If you need to cry or scream or shout. Do it when they are out of earshot.
Should separated parents spend Christmas together?
Ultimately, the decision should be guided by open and honest communication. Discuss your thoughts and ideas with your ex-partner, while keeping your children's best interests at heart.
Should divorced parents spend Christmas together?
If spending Christmas together isn't feasible or would cause more stress than joy, alternative arrangements can be made that still prioritise creating special memories for your children.
How do blended families handle holidays?
Blended families often have different child arrangements and obligations. Flexibility is essential during the holiday season. Work together with your ex-partner and stepparent to find a schedule that allows everyone to spend quality time with their loved ones.