Children experience a mixture of emotions when their parents split up. Confusion – about why the separation is occurring. Anger – with either, or both, parents. Worry – about what will happen next. They may even think it is all their fault! These feelings can be exacerbated if children see their parents arguing, so it’s important that your children are not exposed to that.
If you want to help your children through this difficult time, stay child-focussed. Try to maintain as much routine as possible – it will certainly help alleviate their worries. If you can, make arrangements for Christmas beforehand and try to plan in time that your children can spend with the people they normally see at Christmas, such as friends, grandparents, aunties and uncles, and cousins.
You might both be able to spend Christmas Day together with your children, but if you can’t there are other arrangements you can make, such as one parent spending Christmas Day with the children and the other Boxing Day; splitting the Christmas holidays so that the children spend part of it with each of you; splitting the day so that the children spend Christmas Day morning with one parent and the afternoon with the other; alternating Christmases – one year with one parent, the next with the other and if not seeing a parent on Christmas Day causes upset, you could arrange for the children to speak to the other parent on Facetime or Skype, for example.
Whatever agreement you can come to, it’s best not to argue about it. Your children will already find it difficult to understand why they are not spending this time with you together. Try to explain what is happening in an age-appropriate way and provide them with love and reassurance.
Whilst it might seem like a good idea to ask your children what they want, in reality, it should be avoided, as it can make them feel that they have to choose between you. It’s best if you agree the arrangements beforehand and then discuss them with the children. If they aren’t happy with the arrangements, do listen to them, but remember that what they want may not always be practical.
Avoid speaking negatively about each other to friends and family. Your children are likely to be perceptive to this and hearing you say bad things about their other parent will be particularly upsetting. It’s best to keep these conversations away from your children. Posting issues relating to your ex or your separation on social media is never a good idea either!
The first Christmas as a separated or separating family is always going to be the hardest for your children, so try to work together as parents, where it is safe to do so, and provide your children with as much reassurance and stability as possible.
If you are struggling to agree with your ex on issues relating to your children, contact our experts now. We will offer advice and assistance on how your issues can be best resolved.
Author: Megan Wroe, family paralegal.