For families with separated parents, coping with Christmas can be a time of disappointment and disagreement. Rather than opening presents first thing in the morning and happily gorging yourself with far too many mince pies, separated parents might find themselves a little sad during what should be a joyful time. Caught in the middle of this are children who just want to enjoy the festive period.
With substantial experience in family law, our lawyers have ten top tips to help separated parents make the most of coping with Christmas:
- Plan ahead. If you’re not sure whether the kids will be at your house or your ex’s on Christmas morning, now is the time to make arrangements.
- Remember that Christmas is a time for your children. Practical steps to prioritising the children’s best interests include asking them what they want to do over Christmas, listening closely to what they say and putting their wishes ahead of your own. The kids want to watch The Grinch on Christmas Eve instead of It’s a Wonderful Life? Maybe suck this one up, Dad.
- That being said, parents should always call the shots. If children’s wishes can’t be met (for example if, despite their pleas, you can’t make it to the North Pole to visit Santa and his elves this year because of border closures), explain to the children why they can’t do exactly what they want to do over Christmas. Young children are not decision-makers – that’s your role.
- Build the children’s excitement by telling them everything they can expect on Christmas day. Who is coming over? What are you eating for lunch? Most importantly, when can they open their presents? This serves the dual purpose of encouraging some festive excitement and keeping them involved in the plan for the special day, causing them to feel involved.
- Allow your children to take items of comfort between homes. This is particularly helpful if the children are young, as they are more likely to have a favourite and familiar item which will help them settle into the other parent’s home. If one of the children accidentally leaves an item of comfort with you after handover, organise for it to be returned as soon as possible.
- Be flexible. While each parent should try to abide by the agreed care arrangement, sometimes things happen. If the children are half an hour late to handover because your ex’s Christmas family lunch went a little over the planned time, suggest the children spend an extra half an hour with you to make up for this. Be practical, not argumentative.
- Avoid conflict. Although emotions are heightened over the festive period, especially if Christmas isn’t living up to what you had hoped. It’s important to avoid conflict when the children are present. The quickest way to ruin Christmas for your children is to argue in front of them.
- Handover should not be stressful. If seeing your ex is usually a tense affair, enlist the assistance of a third party to facilitate handover for you. For example, a family member or friend. Avoiding your ex entirely is sometimes the key to keeping negative emotions at bay.
- Seek legal assistance if you need to. You could do everything in your power to plan the perfect Christmas around your difficult ex, and they still might not cooperate. In such a scenario, remember that our office does not shut down for Christmas until 24 December 2020, so there’s still plenty of time to reach out for assistance.
- Finally, always remember there are many social services open over Christmas if you need help. The contact information for various services who specialise in providing assistance to different people in different circumstances can be found via the following link: https://www.whiteribbon.org.au/Find-Help/Help-Lines.
If you would like to discuss your personal circumstances with one of our experienced family lawyers for coping with Christmas, please contact our office today on (08) 9408 5212.