For separated families, the festive season is often a hard time because it changes an occasion that brought their family together to an occasion which highlights that the family is now apart.
The festive season is also a notoriously difficult time for couples and families alike as we, as family lawyers, often see a significant rise in the number of new clients which are couples that have separated in either January or February.
Why would people separate then you ask?
Well, when you’re finished decking the halls and look at your credit card bill you will spot the first major pressure on couples, finances. Or consider whether you have ever felt pressured to meet high expectations or could it be that couples, in laws and families spend uninterrupted periods of time all together which they do not usually spend together.
Here are a few tips from a family lawyer to assist you to survive this festive season.
1. MAKE PLANS IN ADVANCE
As there are less than six weeks until Christmas, it is essential that you make arrangements for what you intend to do over the festive season. Like anything, if you leave planning until the last minute you are guaranteed to be stressed or disappointed.
If your separation has been particularly acrimonious then you may need to factor in that you may need the assistance of a mediator, a lawyer or the Family Court to negotiate the time that you spend with your children over the festive season in advance.
In the event that you need to apply to the Family Court regarding the festive or December school holiday period, you will need to ensure that you do so by the second Friday of November.
Unable to make arrangements for this festive season? Use the time you have off of work over the festive season to plan your festive season next year so that you do not miss the opportunity to make arrangements again.
2. REMEMBER CHRISTMAS CLOSURES
We have all been affected by Christmas closures one time or another. Whether it is the small things like forgetting that the shops are closed on Christmas Day and being unable to purchase the Christmas ham or the big things like being unable to find somewhere to handover your children because the contact service that you usually use is closed.
To prevent this happening to you, check the closure dates for all of the services which you will need over the festive season. For example, children’s contact services are closed on Christmas Day. Therefore, if you generally have supervised handovers for your children, you will need to think of an alternative in advance to avoid disappointment and to avoid ending up having to hand over your children at a police station on Christmas Day, as it is not a good place to hand over children!
Start your Christmas shopping early and shop online! This will assist you financially, as it means that you can purchase things you need gradually and not have to put all of your purchases on your credit card. It will also reduce your stress levels avoiding having to wait in lines 24 people deep while listening to the same carol on repeat to buy the toy Johnny wanted.
3. KEEP THE CHILDREN AS YOUR MAIN PRIORITY
The key lesson in this regard is to ensure that you protect your children from conflict. Never talk to your children about any difficulties which you are experiencing in negotiating with the other parent regarding holiday arrangements.
Your children should not be aware of the dispute and they most certainly should not be involved in the dispute. Do not make your children feel emotionally responsible or guilty that they will not be with you or the other parent on Christmas Day.
As family lawyers, we get it. The last thing that you want to do during the festive season while you are trying to get over your separation is wander around the shops with Sally to find the perfect tie for her dad. But remember, for Sally buying her dad a tie is important. So take Sally to buy the tie or if she wants to make something for him, help her. It is a small gesture that will show your children you support their relationship with their mum or dad and it is also a kind thing to do for your ex partner.
4. REMEMBER WHY CHRISTMAS IS IMPORTANT
The way in which Christmas is celebrated is different for everyone. It is important to remember that Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day each have a different level of importance for every family. Try not to get hung up on wanting to spend Christmas Day with your children if your extended family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve.
Children will not get hung up on the day that you celebrate Christmas, if you and the other parent are not hung up on the day.
As a parent, especially a separated parent, you need to channel Roxy Jacenko by becoming a PR Queen and selling things to your children. This is particularly important with new ways of celebrating things like Christmas. You need to sell to your children how exciting it is for them that they get to have two Christmas celebrations, instead of one!
Now is a time to focus on creating good and happy memories with your children. They may be different memories to what you had planned but you can create happy new traditions with your children that they will remember for a lifetime.
5. ENSURE YOU HAVE A SUPPORT NETWORK
Be open with your extended family and friends about your concerns and plans over the festive season. Your family and friends will be happy to support your new traditions and change in celebrations, just as much as they will be happy to keep you company on the days you do not have your children with you.
Every separated family is different and people are not mind readers so you must communicate openly with those around you so they can support you.
Wishing you all a safe and conflict free festive season! Make sure you are organised in advance so you don’t end up missing out!