At this time of year, there is an inevitable rush to have matters resolved for the long school holidays, including Christmas. There is a heavy reliance on services to help parents and while I encourage people to utilise those services, it’s also possible to organise this without interventions.
No doubt by now many of you have Orders that are quite specific. In many Orders, they have a line that says “unless otherwise agreed by the parties”. So even if you have Orders there may be some flexibility to consider. If you don’t have Orders but rely on a parenting plan, then you also have flexibility.
Before I go on, I should note that whatever arrangement you have already may be perfectly fine as it is. In many cases, there is a perfectly good reason why things are the way they are. You may already be sharing care over the holidays, such as splitting up the day morning with one parent, and the afternoon with the other. However, I am asking you to consider those arrangements from your child’s point of view and what ways you might be able to improve them. After all, we all know that Christmas is about the kids!
A few years ago I wrote an article to help parents get a stronger sense of what their children are feeling when they don’t see or spend time with another parent. This year’s article is to help parents put that into practical changes.
I have some tips for you following. Now, they’re probably not the things you want to know, like how to get your co-parent to agree when they never do or; how you can get them to change their personality. These thinking points will not magically make your Christmas better. They will not give your co-parent a lobotomy. What I hope they do is encourage you to consider Christmas from your children’s point of view and to do your part in breaking the cycle of conflict.
Child-Centered Thinking Points
Consider the following questions one at a time. Take five minutes to write some notes and make lists when answering.
- What memories do you have at Christmas time when you were a child?
- What memories of Christmas do you want your children to have
- Forget about their side / your side of the family for a moment. Write a list of all the people in the family that are important to your child. This isn’t about you – it’s about each of your children. List their co-parent, grandparents, cousin, etc on both sides that they love to spend time with.
- What can you do or change about your Christmas plans that will help your child have contact with all the family members important to them?
- What other things could you add to make it better? How does your plan for the holidays help your children to fulfill their best chance of having a happy Christmas to remember?
- List the things that will make the day special.
- How do you think the children would feel if you helped them buy a present for your co-parent? What do you think this act of kindness would teach them?
Christmas and the New Year are a time for celebrations and new beginnings. Starting over, viewing circumstances with a different perspective, and finding new ways to solve old problems can feel challenging. However, it’s not nearly as challenging as facing the same problems over and over with no hope of change.
On behalf of Parenting After Separation, Debby and I wish you a Christmas filled with love, laughter, and peace in your hearts.