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Top tips for Christmas when you're a separated parent

Posted on 30th November, 2018

Christmas can be a tricky time when you’re a separated parent.  Even if you’ve been separated for a while, it might be a difficult time for you if you haven’t put in place arrangements that work with your separated family dynamic.  This blog sets out our top tips to help make the festive season go more smoothly for you …


Time the children will spend with you both

Consider early on what arrangements might work for you all. 


Could you and your ex share Christmas Day, with the children waking up with one of you and then going to the other parent perhaps in the afternoon? 


Could one parent have the children overnight on Christmas Eve until Christmas morning or lunchtime, and then the other have them Christmas afternoon overnight until Boxing Day? 


Could both parents be in the same house with the children on Christmas morning and perhaps even have Christmas dinner together?  This won’t work for everyone, but it might just be possible for you so it’s definitely something to consider. 


Or maybe the children could have two ‘Christmas Days’ – one on 25th as usual, but another perhaps on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day so they get double the excitement. 


Consider other family members too.  You might not be at all concerned about whether your ex’s parents can see your children over Christmas, but the chances are that the children will want to see their Grandparents.  You might not be bothered about whether your children can wake up on Christmas morning with your ex’s new baby, but the children might be really excited to be there for their new brother or sister’s first Christmas, or just to be together to share the fun of opening their presents, even if it’s not anyone’s first Christmas.  Can you work around those relationships so that your children get to see everyone they want to see?


Above all, think about the arrangements sooner rather than later and don’t make the children feel awkward.  Keep any disagreements away from the children (remember, they see and hear more than you think) and let the children know as soon as possible what the arrangements will be, so that they can feel reassured that they will be spending time with both of you over Christmas. 


Christmas concerts and other events

Your children might have nativity plays, Christmas concerts, carol services and maybe other events to attend.  Try to plan ahead for these so that the children know where they stand and aren’t worried about what might or might not happen. 


If there will be two performances of a concert, it might be sensible for one of you to go to each – not just to reduce the opportunity for arguments and awkwardness, but because the children will probably want one of you there whenever they perform. 


If there is only one performance, you’ll probably both want to go so remember to make sure that the children don’t pick up on any negativity.  Try to be civil with your ex – and if the children see you actually being friendly towards each other, so much the better.


Christmas Presents

Consider what gifts the children have said they want and try to communicate with your ex (in person, or by text/email etc if necessary) to agree who will buy what.  This will help you avoid duplication and also help towards ensuring that the children get as many of the presents they want as possible.


Remember that gift-giving at Christmas shouldn’t be a competition.  Try to resist the urge to compete with your ex to buy the children more expensive presents, or bigger presents, or the most presents.  It helps if you can agree who is buying what in advance, as mentioned above.


On the subject of gifts, try to resist the urge to tell the children that they can’t take the new, expensive gift you bought to their mum’s or to their dad’s.  Remember, it’s their present and they’ll probably want to take it with them – so try not to make things more difficult for the children by refusing to let them.


The children might also want to buy a present for their other parent and might need your help to do so.  This will probably go against your instinct – you won’t want to buy your ex anything!  But don’t think of it as a gift for your ex, it’s a gift for your children really.  They’ll get the pleasure of being able to give a gift to their other parent and you’ll be setting the tone for their Christmas – one of cooperation rather than animosity.


And finally …

Christmas can be a tricky time for separated parents and will probably require you to come up with new family traditions.  But new can be good, and these tips should help you come up with new traditions that could work for you and your family.


And above all - enjoy your Christmas!










Paula Tanner,

Former Solicitor & Founder of Ethos Family Solutions - the affordable alternative to a solicitor.



If you’d like to discuss Christmas contact arrangements, or any other family law matter,

get in touch.

01792 420581


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