Navigating the Festive Season After Separation or Divorce
This Christmas will be hard for lots of people across the UK, not least families in the process of a divorce or separation. Here are some of our tips for coping over the festive season.
- Make a plan
A structured Christmas will mean that everyone in the family knows who they will be spending time with and when. For example, organise which meal will be with each parent and who will open their presents where – this will significantly reduce the likelihood of any confusion or arguments. You can also arrange times for putting up the tree and decorations so that everyone feels involved in the Christmas preparations.
- Keep disagreements and legal issues away from the festivities
Christmas is not the time nor the place to be discussing anything to do with your legal battle with your ex. This period is a time for reflection and restoration and is not an excuse to continue discussions reserved for the presence of lawyers or a mediator. Of course, this is with the caveat that any issues of domestic violence or threats to safety should not be ignored and must be addressed immediately at any time of year.
- Maintain or begin traditions
Whether this is the first Christmas after the relationship broke down or not, there’s always space for maintaining old and creating new Christmas traditions. Perhaps this could involve putting food out for Father Christmas and his reindeer with younger family members or making some mulled wine to drink while watching It’s A Wonderful Life with older family members. Each family is different, so there’s no limit to the traditions you can create for everyone. Where possible it is nice to get children involved with picking the traditions so that they are enthusiastic and want to take part. This also give children something different to look forward to with each parent as Christmas approaches every year.
- Be kind to yourself and those around you
Although this is inevitably going to be a difficult and painful time, it is important to spread the festive cheer as much as possible. It will help you to feel better and you don’t know who around you might need that extra pick-me-up too. Show empathy to your ex-partner if you are feeling particularly positive about the breakup but they are not and try to keep communications as civil as possible even when you are hurting. Ultimately you should do your best to preserve those happy holiday memories with your ex and be excited for new ones to unfold.
- Remember, you’re still a family
Let go of the idea of the nuclear family and embrace your family structure as it is now. Conflict and competitiveness of any kind should be avoided – it’s not a competition of who can be the best parent or buy the best presents this Christmas. When fighting and unhappy parents are no longer spending the holidays together, Christmas can be even more fun as there is much less underlying conflict for the children to see and hear.
By communicating and planning using the above tips you can ensure you and your children are surrounded by as much happiness and love as possible this Christmas.