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Partner and Head of Family Law, Rugby
At this time of year we are surrounded by Christmas adverts on television and in magazines. Whatever version you see, there is usually some reference to happy family times with presents, fun, food and laughter. Generations of families are often seen enjoying time together, either gathered round the tree or dinner table. Children will appear happy and excited, enjoying all the festivities and loving all their presents. Hopefully this is how we remember our own childhood Christmases but for some children this won’t be the case, they may remember Christmas as a stressful, sad occasion with their separated parents locked in a seemingly never-ending battle about contact over the festive season.
For most of us the idea of being a separated parent isn’t something that we would wish for and if we are in that position, most of us certainly want to protect our children from any negative effects of having two homes. Nevertheless most parents feel under huge pressure to give their children a wonderful Christmas and that can cause major problems, inviting unwanted conflict when they are trying to agree how contact logistics will be managed.
In the many conversations I have had over the years with children of separated parents, I have learned that in the main children don’t really mind how Christmas works as long as they get to see their families, receive lots of presents and eat lots of lovely, generally unhealthy things!
Children don’t usually appear to get to hung up on the date, that appears to be the adult position, us ‘grown-ups’ attach so much significance to spending time with our children on 25 December we forget that there are plenty of other opportunities over what is usually several days to re-create the magic of Christmas Day. What the majority of children want is to create happy memories (and possibly have photographic evidence) of time spent with both Mum and Dad. When they look back as adults on their childhood Christmases they won’t be remembering the date that they were with each parent, it will be what presents they received, how much they ate, what silly games they played, how much fun they had riding their new bike or playing their new computer game.
This is an emotive time of year and it is very easy for parents to feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the expectations it invites, especially when separated, but let’s try and remember that it’s just one day of the year and that children will love Dad and Mum for the additional 364 days a year so there are plenty of opportunities to have fabulous family time together!
The free 1 hour workshop Creating Christmas Memories for Children With Two Homes offers separated parents the opportunity to discuss their anxieties about how to manage Christmas and considers strategies individuals might use when communicating with their ex partner about contact over the festive season, keeping their children’s needs as their focus. For more information please contact email@example.com