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Who has the kids on Christmas Day? Top Tips for separated parents.

View profile for Victoria Poole
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Magic or Misery?

For many children, Christmas is the most magical time of the year.

And, as a parent, there’s nothing more wonderful than soaking up their joy and excitement during the build-up, on the day itself and throughout the festive break.

But if you’re divorced or separated, Christmas can present a fresh new source of stress, tension, arguments and potential heartache within the family.

Goodwill to all mankind

For those whose split has been acrimonious or perhaps is still relatively raw, ‘Peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind’ may well seem a million miles off. Even for separated couples who can normally communicate and function civilly, there’s something about Christmas that can create angst and fire up emotions. The worst outcome is that children can be left feeling upset and confused.

Chances are, you both want the kids on Christmas Day - so, what do you do?

Top Tips

Follow our 5 top tips for sharing the children and surviving Christmas as a separated parent:

1. Treat Christmas as an event, not a day

Many parents find that this approach eases tension and ensures both parties enjoy a ‘special day’ with their children. Where each parent lives can influence the right choice for them, but examples of this include i) spending Christmas Day all together (if the relationship is amicable enough) ii) a split Christmas Day – morning with one parent; the afternoon with the other iii) Celebrating two separate Christmas Days, one with each parent (children often love the fact that Father Christmas can visit two separate homes!), or iv) alternating Christmas.

2. Put the children first and be fair to each other

It can be very hard to put your own feelings to one side, but most children love being able to spend quality, meaningful time with BOTH parents at Christmas. Remembering this can help you create an arrangement whereby everyone is happy. 

3. Discuss and divide presents

Try to avoid Christmas becoming a competition about who gets the kids the ‘best’ presents – get your children to write a wish list then try to agree how to divide it between you. This also prevents any duplication issues and can help keep costs down.

4. Consider the extended families

If your children have close relationships with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, making special time for them to spend together will also be important.

5. Keep busy, make plans

It can be difficult during Christmas when your children aren’t with you, but try to make the most of it. Plan to do things you’d normally do when you ‘get a break’ at other points in the year - relax, recharge, pamper, treat yourself, visit friends, spend time with new partners, party – the important thing is to plan ahead and keep yourself busy. 


The end of a relationship doesn't mean the end of Christmas

The festive period as a separated parent doesn’t need to be a minefield of anxiety and upset. With some careful planning and communication, Christmas can still be a special and magical time for the whole family.


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 Susan Howarth & Co xxx