Christmas and Divorce
Christmas and divorce. They don’t sit well together do they? Perhaps this is your first Christmas as a separated lady, and you’re wondering how you are going to manage financially and emotionally. Here are a few tips to get you through the festive period this year, whether you’re a parent or not.
1. Plan your Christmas
It may sound obvious, but planning your Christmas can make a world of difference to you, whether you have children or not. You are just as important as children. Ensure that you plan a restful/ fun/peaceful time for yourself. Christmas can be a lonely time, others enjoy some solitude. Choose what works for you.
If financially you are in a different place this year, and you have children, you need to manage your children’s expectations, particularly if they are young and still believe in Father Christmas. The end of your relationship doesn’t have to mean the end of their belief in the Big Man. It’s about how you frame it with your children. Perhaps there’s one item your child longs for more than anything, that’s within budget? Perhaps your child really likes opening lots of smaller parcels? Perhaps you can buy them some things they need as well as those they want? Who hasn’t had pyjamas and pants for Christmas?
If possible, discuss with their father the gifts you will buy for your children. Will you continue to give joint gifts (many parents do), or separate ones? Will your children see their father, and if so, when? Having these discussions in advance will help the whole family. It’s important to remain calm and as relaxed as you can. Consider family mediation if you feel that talking with an impartial third person will be helpful.
2. Remember that your children will have a different Christmas too.
If this is the first Christmas that your children will have been without both of you in the same house, it will be strange for them. They may be sad, angry or withdrawn. Acknowledge with your children that this year will be different, and if you can, make it different in a good way. All families have their traditions, routines and practices they follow each year. See this Christmas as an opportunity to create new ones. Make it fun! It doesn’t need to cost any money. If your children are old enough, get them involved and ask them to come up with ideas to make this Christmas different from previous ones.
This can also work well for families facing their first Christmas after the death of a loved one.
3. Be a respectful parent
You may not be in a relationship anymore, but you are still a parent. Whatever your personal thoughts about your husband, (unless there are safety issues), that person may be the father of your children. Your children love him and need to know that it is ok to love him. Your children may feel anxious and worried about their father. It’s important to acknowledge that with your children and reassure them that their is still loves them. Of course, if their father isn’t around anymore of his own volition, manage your children’s expectations by being as age appropriately honest as you can. Even if Christmas brings to the surface feelings of resentment and of being let down by their father, avoid sharing these feelings with your children. It causes stress and encourages your children to have divided loyalties which are unhealthy.
4. Give the gift of time
Probably the greatest gift you can give your children this Christmas is time. Time with you, and time with their father and extended family. Grandparents may also be missing from your children’s lives this Christmas. How you can make this work depends on your circumstances. It might be you live close by and the children can spend some part of Christmas Day with their father. It maybe that you and their father are able to be in the house together for part of the time enjoying watching the children opening gifts or playing games.
That might be too soon.
Only you know what you can handle. However, it is important that in some way, your children are able to connect with their father and extended family. If distance is an issue, this could be through Skype or Facetime. Remember that if you have your children completely to yourself this year, unless you and your former partner agree otherwise, it is likely the children will be with him next year. How would you feel not having any contact with your children? More importantly, how will you children feel not having contact with you?
That’s how your children will feel this year if you don’t facilitate, or make yourself available for contact.
You have the opportunity to show your children that they have two parents that love them dearly even though they live apart. Take that opportunity if at all possible…. Your children will thank you for it.
If talking through these issues is tricky, mediation can help. Mediation is about helping you share your thoughts, asking questions and agreeing to a way forward in a neutral environment. Deciding how to deal with Christmas as a separated parent isn’t easy and that’s why mediators are available to support you in making these arrangements for you and your family.
5. Be kind to yourself
Whether you have the children on your own, or you’ll be without them for the first time this Christmas morning, remember that it is ok to feel a whole range of emotions from sadness to anger, frustration and resentment or happiness and joy depending on your circumstances. It’s ok to have fun with your children if you have them, and it’s ok to feel upset if you haven’t.
Remember. Keep perspective. Christmas comes but once a year…
Christmas is one of the major events in the year for children and it is only a few days. Do what you need to do for you to help you manage those days. See friends, relax and get plenty of sleep. Avoid drinking too much alcohol as this is a depressant and is unlikely to support you in the longer term.
Remember that this Christmas may not be easy, but the way in which you handle it will set expectations for future years. If you don’t have children, what new traditions or adventures can you start for yourself? Who could you invite to spend Christmas with? Perhaps you fancy some winter sun? If you’re open to invites, let your friends and family know – they’ll likely want to support you in the best way they can.
6. What if you can’t reach agreement?
If you and the other parent can’t agree, you may be faced with no alternative but to issue an application for a Child Arrangements Order. This starts with the consideration of mediation. You must see a mediator prior to making an application to court. This all takes time.You can expect to wait up to 6 weeks for court hearing to deal with your case. It’s therefore important that you start talking about Christmas right now. Use an organisation such as Resolution to help you find a lawyer if you need one. The sooner you act, the sooner you can relax knowing that arrangements are in place for you and your children.
I’m Emma. I’m a Divorce Coach for Ladies who Leave. I’m also a Family Mediator for Crombie wilkinson Your Family First, in York. You can find out more about how family Mediation can assist you at www.yourfamilyfirst.co.uk