We all know that the Christmas holidays can be painful and stressful if you’re separated from your partner and your children. Relate family counsellor, Barbara Bloomfield, offers advice on how to keep things calm and relaxed…
Sharing the kids
Ideally, most children would like to see both parents on Christmas Day and this is possible when separated parents live close to each other. But if this isn’t the case, you may have decided they will see one parent on 25 December and the other on Boxing Day. Some families prefer to have alternate Christmases with mum or dad and this will depend on time, ages and preferences of the children, as well as the grown-ups.
It goes without saying the most important thing is to put your children’s needs at the center of the decision-making process. Try to make arrangements with your ex well in advance of the big day and get the details down in writing, especially the expected handover time, which can cause friction if they get messed up.
Don’t forget that if you want to take the children abroad on holiday, you’ll need to get the agreement of the other parent before you do so. It’s a good idea to fully inform your ex and other relatives in writing of your movements abroad.
Keeping in touch
Help your children to keep in touch with the absent parent by planning telephone or Skype calls at times that suit everyone. If there’s any danger of you getting into an argument with your ex in front of your children, walk away into another room.
Dealing with your new partner
If you have a new partner, you might find that they get worked up about your ex on your behalf. It’s understandable that your current partner wants to protect and support you but we often see in the counselling room how this can fan the flames of bad feeling. Explain to your current partner that, for the sake of the children, you all want to avoid drama, especially in front of the youngsters. The same advice goes for other relatives.
If possible, agree with your ex what presents you will buy, to avoid duplication and one-upmanship. It may even be possible to buy a joint present for a child which will show them that you work together in their best interests. Make sure that children and step-children get similar value of gifts, if possible, to ensure fairness.
Don’t expect them to love like you do
If you have a fabulous new partner who lights up your life, it may be tempting to think other family members will feel the same but unfortunately this isn’t always the case. Insecurities and feelings of loss and sadness often come to the fore at Christmas and this can be a combustible mixture, especially around alcohol. Think twice before you introduce your new partner to the family on Christmas Day and instead think about doing it on a day when emotions aren’t running as high.
Christmas is a good time to practice generosity, tolerance and forgiveness. Treat others, including your ex-partner, with kindness and tolerance if you can. You never know what they might be going through and if you can have a positive co-parenting relationship your children will reap the benefits.
About the author
Barbara Bloomfield writes books about relationships and is a Relate counsellor. Find out more about her work at barbarabloomfield.com
Relate is the UK’s leading relationship support charity. If you are struggling and need some help with your relationship this Christmas, Relate can help. Learn about their range of support services at relate.org.uk