For separated families, the two key words to keep in mind in the lead up to the festive season are planning and compromising.
The festive season is also a notoriously difficult time for couples and families alike as traditions are changing, it is a time of sadness for people who have lost their family unit, there are often significant financial pressures and you are also spending a considerably greater amount of time with your partner (and their family) than you otherwise would at any other time of the year.
As a family lawyer, I have experience with assisting people to plan for the festive season and also assisting people who are disappointed because they have not planned for the festive season.
Here are a few tips to assist you in preparing for the festive season.
As Benjamin Franklin once famously said “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” While it is possible, he was not referring to making care arrangements and plans for your family over the festive season, this mantra can be applied to preparations for the festive season.
There are just two 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.
Unable to make arrangements for this festive season? Use the time you have off work over the festive season to plan your festive season next year so that you do not miss the opportunity to make arrangements again.
Remember Christmas closures
We have all been affected by Christmas closures one time or another, whether it is as trivial as cream to accompany your dessert or as significant as not being able to find somewhere to handover your children because the contact service that you usually use is closed, it is a reality which must be planned for.
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!
Unfortunately, as a separated family, Christmas will not be celebrated in the same manner as it was when you were together as a family unit, so it is unrealistic to try and put that pressure on yourself, your children and your former spouse.
Keep the children as your main priority
When you are considering your plans or actions you wish to take, keep in mind that your main priority should always be 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 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. It is easy to want to vent in front of your children but avoid doing so at all costs! Call a friend instead.
Remember why Christmas is important
The way in which Christmas is celebrated is different for everyone.
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.
It 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.
Ensure you have a support network
Speak openly with your extended family and friends about your concerns and plans regarding the upcoming 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.
People are not mind readers so you must communicate openly with those around you so they can support you.