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DAD.info | Fatherhood | Being Dad | Separated parents at Christmas: how to make it work

Separated parents at Christmas: how to make it work

Maya Griffiths

Maya Griffiths

If you’re separated from your partner and sharing custody, Christmas can be difficult. You might not be seeing your children on Christmas Day. Here’s how to navigate your way through the festive season as a separated parent:

How to split Christmas between divorced parents- put your child first

In everything you do during the festive period, look to put your kids first. ‘Ideally parents would discuss and arrange a plan for Christmas beforehand, so that children will be prepared for what will happen,’ says Nicola Baldwin, Parenting Lead at Spurgeons.

If you are seeing your child on a day that isn’t Christmas Day, you can make your day Christmas Day too. ‘You can tell younger children that Father Christmas comes to both houses,’ adds Nicola.

Should separated parents spend Christmas together?

If you are amicable enough with your ex partner, you may want to try spending Christmas Day together for the sake of the children. This avoids any conflict over who sees the kids when. Children will also be happier for having their family ‘together’. However, if there is a risk of arguments between you and your ex partner, it’s best to avoid having Christmas together.

You will also want to avoid giving your child false hope of reconciliation. This can be avoided by explaining that this is a one-off arrangement for Christmas.

Try and keep Christmas day as normal as possible for the kids

This should hopefully ease the upset about splitting Christmas between two parents. Keep long-running traditions intact and as normal as possible.

Be prepared for children to be upset

Accept that kids might find it upsetting to be not seeing the other parent. ‘Acknowledge that they feel sad, and let them have a little cry if they need to,’ says Nicola. ‘They need to get that emotion out. But, try not to take it personally- it’s just that your child will miss their mum- not that they don’t want to see you.’

Encourage the kids to have fun

From the outset, try and put a positive spin on Christmas for the children. ‘Tell them that Christmas is going to be fun- that they will still see everybody, and they’ll still have presents and a lovely time,’ says Nicola.

Make some new traditions- but don’t stress

You can inject extra fun into your new Christmas arrangement by creating some new activities to do together. It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated- kids will love playing ‘floor is lava’ using cushions, and older kids will love charades.

‘Kids aren’t bothered about Christmas dinner do don’t worry if what you eat together is a simple meal ,’ says Nicola. ‘It’s all about having that bonding time together- that’s what they’ll remember.’

If you can’t see your child over Christmas

If arrangements or life circumstances don’t allow you to see your child over Christmas, make sure you send them presents and a card and try to speak to them on Christmas Day if possible. ‘Make sure they know you’ll miss them, so they know you care,’ says Nicola. Even if parents are warring, putting the children’s needs first should help to refocus both mum and dad on ensuring the children feel loved and made to feel special by both of them.

Surviving being separated parents at Christmas

It can be painful to not see your child over Christmas, so make sure you’re occupied doing something else. ‘Try and join in something, or do some of your favourite things,’ advises Nicola. ‘Or, you could try volunteering- do something positive.’

Separated at Christmas? Come and chat to others on our forum.

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