It’s that time of year again, the John Lewis ad has melted the nation’s hearts and the festive season is firmly underway.
But for some parents, it’s not all yuletide greetings and HoHoHo!
For those who are separated or divorced, amicably or not, Christmas can be an incredibly difficult, emotional and lonely period as, inevitably, one parent is likely to be without their children on Christmas Day.
And whilst there’s no point denying the reality that being without your kids at Christmas may be a part of the divorce deal, whether this is your first time or your 10th time facing the festivities without your family, the trick is to try to make Christmas not only manageable but enjoyable again.
Follow our 5 tip tips and, with some careful thought and planning, you’ll be rockin’ around the Christmas tree before you know it!
1. Where there’s ‘good’ will, there’s a way
Start talking with your ex as early as possible about how Christmas will work this year. Remember it’s the season of goodwill and try to put any animosity, resentment or frustration to one side. Keep it simple, put your kids first and consider involving older children in your discussions – what do they want and need to make Christmas special for them? Sort the finer details to avoid any last-minute hiccoughs that could cause disruption and upset - clarify and agree on the contact arrangements, how and where ‘handovers’ work, discuss presents and who gets what to avoid duplication, conflict or competition and reduce expense.
2. Get your head around Christmas being an event not a day!
Although you may not have the children with you on the 25th December, think about how to celebrate when you’re all together. Consider planning a ‘second’ Christmas Day – most children would love two lots of celebrations and two lots of presents! You can keep old traditions or make new ones, or even plan something completely different and off-the-wall - it’s up to you and your kids but, whatever you do, putting the effort will make it special for you all.
3. Include extended family and friends
It might be tempting to hog your children, to soak up every single minute because you’re having to ‘share’ them, but it’s important to remember the other significant people in your kids’ lives. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends may have close relationships with your children so making special time with them will be important.
4. See Christmas through your children’s eyes
It’s completely normal and understandable to be feeling despair, sadness and upset at the thought of being without your children, and it can be hard to keep those emotions from spilling over.
Try to remember what Christmas feels like through your child’s eyes – whether it’s finding Elf on the Shelf each night, eating advent calendars, being mesmerised by twinkly fairy lights, writing letters to Father Christmas, making sparkly decorations, being the donkey in the school Christmas play, smelling christmas trees and mulled wine, singing carols, staying up late, playing games with mum or dad, eating chocolate for breakfast! – it all adds up to a fantastically magical time, full of laughter, joy, rising anticipation and wild excitement.
Encourage this, be a part of it - talk about their plans, even the ones that don’t involve you and may be with your -ex, show interest and share their happiness and excitement.
5. Plan your ‘me’ time and enjoy!
When you’ve agreed your schedule, now have some fun planning your ‘me’ time. Indulge in all the things you wouldn’t do with the kids there – socialise with friends, embrace the party season, go on a date, watch back-to-back episodes of The Grand Tour or Motherland in your PJs on a ‘duvet day’, treat yourself to a night away, a spa day or explore a new city, volunteer to help at a local charity or soup kitchen. Whatever you choose to do, keep busy and relish it.
Changing your perspective
Christmas doesn’t end with the end of a marriage or a relationship - it just changes and change can still be good.
Making a conscious decision to accept and embrace this change will help you turn what can be a challenging and difficult time, into a positive experience.
Here to listen and help
With some careful planning and communication, Christmas can still be a special and magical time for the whole family.
However, we really do know how hard the holidays can be for many separated parents and if you find yourself still struggling and not knowing where to turn, we are here.
If you’d like any help or advice on creating an amicable and workable Christmas contact arrangement, please contact us on 01606 48777.
Whatever you and your family choose to do, ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!’ From all at SH&Co xxx