05 December 2017

Co-parenting through the chaos of Christmas time

Having assisted countless families over more than a decade as a family lawyer, I have observed that Christmas time can be a particularly stressful period for separated parents.  Not only are there the usual stresses – buying the perfect gifts, arranging a festive get-together, handling overexcited and often overtired children, as well the constant stream of visitors, but for separated couples, this time can be very emotionally draining and logistically challenging.

Put simply, Christmas time can be a challenge and if not handled well, it can cause long-term damage to the co-parenting relationship and the family unit.

Below are some tips to help separated couples survive the chaos of Christmas, and the particular challenges co-parenting can pose during this festive time of year:

  1. Respect any arrangements made as to the shared-care of your children over the Christmas period. Try to avoid requests to change the parenting arrangements at the last minute, as such requests during this sentimental and emotional time of year, often cause stress and conflict.
  2. If you have not yet agreed on the parenting arrangements for your children at Christmas time, start communicating with your former partner pronto, to try to agree on these arrangements. Seek the assistance of a mediator if necessary, and consider whether the agreed arrangements should be documented in a parenting plan or as part of a consent order for the sake of clarity and certainty.
  3. Avoid communicating with your former partner about a contentious issue when you are overtired, stressed or emotional. If possible, wait 24 hours and then re-consider initiating communication.  Proof-read all written communications to your former partner before sending them.  If you are unsure whether the content of your communication will be well received, consider communicating verbally instead, or have a trusted confidant proof-read the communication for you, and edit it as necessary before proceeding.
  4. If you and your former partner are not on good terms, do not force a shared family Christmas on your children; your children do not need to be in the same room as each of you to enjoy Christmas, particularly if that room is filled with stress and tension.
  5. Encourage your children to communicate with the other parent on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Often small gestures such as this go a long way to creating goodwill between separated parents.
  6. If you and your children are comfortable doing so, make a Christmas card for the other parent from your children. Again, small gestures such as this can reap long-term benefits.
  7. Remember that Christmas time can be stressful and emotional for everyone, and particularly separated parents (and their children), so be kind to one another and avoid conflict as much as possible. Be merry and remember that Christmas is about your children and they can sense stress and tension, even when no harsh words are being exchanged.

If you or someone you know requires advice about parenting or any other family law issue, please contact our office to speak with one of our experience family law solicitors.

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