The Christmas Conundrum
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
The perfect Christmas, what is that? Jamie Oliver is superb at showing us how to make the perfect Christmas dinner and the internet is showered with advice about the perfect stocking fillers. Unfortunately, there are not quite so many perfect solutions to the challenging decisions separated parents face.
We live in times when the term ‘average family’ has very little meaning. Family units are complex, but what I have seen throughout my career as a family lawyer is that children thrive in warm, supportive, and stable families, whatever their structure. Many consider that a child needs a mum and a dad, from what I have seen children need role models, relationships and parents doing their best.
Whilst separated parents will not always like each other, they usually have one common wish, for their children to be happy. So here are a few tips that might assist during the festive season when deciding how best to give the children the Christmas they deserve.
1. Start conversations about how the children will spend their Christmas early, be prepared to be flexible. Once it is all agreed, and not before, share this with the children.
2. The first year is usually the hardest, neither parent wants to miss out on Christmas morning. Perhaps, consider the longer-term plan and alternating the arrangement year on year.
3. Keep up the Christmas traditions, on the year when the children spend Christmas with the other parent, consider creating a new tradition ‘fake Christmas’. It is a win/win, both parents enjoy the full festive experience, and the children get to celebrate twice.
4. Do not put yourself under pressure or create unrealistic expectations.
5. Avoid competing or trying to ‘out do’ the children’s other parent, wherever possible talk about what you want to ask Santa to bring the children.
6. What about extended families, relationships between grandparents and grandchildren are very important. These should not be overlooked; an option may be to organise a special day or a time to visit when gifts could be exchanged. It is remarkable how often Santa can leave presents at the wrong houses.
What is different this year?
This year, the lead up to Christmas has been a state of flux, regular child arrangements have been allowed to take place whilst the COVID restrictions had been in place, but it was an unknown whether a family Christmas, with more than one household in each of the separated parent’s home, was possible. Would children be able to see extended family? A decision was made by government, albeit with a degree of seasonal caution, met with joy by some and dismay from others, children aged under 18 whose parents live apart are allowed to be part of two separate Christmas bubbles. This means children can see both parents and their parent’s respective bubbles without being considered as part of another household. A great relief for many.
In summary, as Boris has said ‘tis the season to be jolly cautious’, but for those facing difficult decisions, be jolly generous with your willingness to adapt to a new ‘normal’. Do expect a few curve balls but know, in the main, children just want to be loved and cherished. There is no one size fits all and the top tips are not a road map to the perfect Christmas, just a few hints about how to survive it.
If you need any assistance with child arrangements, contact us for a free initial consultation with Louisa Bestford or Angela McGurk on 0191 3847210 .