Organising Christmas for separated parents can be difficult for the children and the adults involved.

Christmas is an exciting and magical time for children.  However, for adults post relationship breakdown it can seem more ‘bleak midwinter than ‘winter wonderland’ – especially when arrangements need to be made for how the children are to share their time between two homes. 

Our top tips to organising Christmas for separated parents

Here are our top tips on how to tackle organising Christmas for separated parents:

Work together – this might seem impossible but appreciate that the children are likely to want to see both of you.  Children need reassurance that they still have two parents and demonstrating unity in parenting can be enormously helpful to their wellbeing.  Is it feasible for you to enjoy any of the festivities together, such as school plays, visits to Santa or even Christmas dinner?  If not, can you alternate attendance at these?  Can you buy joint presents or agree a budget so that children do not perceive one parent as being more generous and/or better off? 

Think creatively – if Christmas dinner together is not feasible, is carving up Christmas Day an option?  Could one of you have the children from Christmas Eve lunch through to Christmas Day lunch, and the other from Christmas Day lunch through to Boxing Day lunch?  Could you even have two Christmas Days?  Do not be afraid to think creatively about what might work best for your family and be willing to alternate the arrangements next year. 

Plan – do not leave planning to the last minute and remember to consider practicalities such as how long it takes to travel between homes.  Also remember that this is an important time for other family members such as grandparents and aunts and uncles who may also want to spend time with the children.  Make sure that these family members are also considered in your plans.

Focus – remember that the focus needs to be on the wellbeing of the children.  Do not leave the children to decide; that is simply unfair as they are likely to want to be with you both.  Be positive about the time the children will be spending with the other parent and wider family. 

Share – it is usually in the children’s best interests to share special days between their parents – do not allow yourself to be side-lined.  If your arrangements do not promote sharing and it proves impossible to reach agreement, consider mediation.  If this fails lawyers might be able to help you reach an agreement and if needs be a court application could be made. 

You – accept that being without your children during the festive season can be lonely, and it can take some years to get used to it.  Be kind to yourself and try to fill your time positively – organise to hook up with an old friend, join a club or do some volunteering. 

Often the biggest enemy at this time of year can be the perception that everyone apart from you is enjoying the picture-perfect family Christmas.  Remember though that families come in all shapes and sizes and all have their challenges. 

So, although organising Christmas for separated parents maybe something you’re up against this year, there is always someone to talk to. This might not be the Christmas you always imagined, and you might not find yourself singing along to ‘Joy to the World’ too enthusiastically, you will not be alone.

Contact Watson Morris if you require legal advice when it comes to separation with or without children.

Written by Caroline Watson

November 30, 2022

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