Christmas is a traditional family time but not all families live together, particularly children and one or both parents.
How do parents who do not live together or maybe have never lived together, manage their roles as parents over Christmas?
Along with love, children need a sense of security and routine and to know what to expect.
Providing structure to access, visits or overnights along with clear consistent guidelines and boundaries by all parents/carers, offers children a sense of security.
Many couples who have children together are no longer a couple. Some never lived together. Some married or lived together and then separated or divorced, others have new partners.
Children who do not live with one orboth parents or live in care may struggle with a mixture of strong thoughts and emotions.
They can feel sadness, anger or shame or self blame at not ‘living happily ever after’ as a family unit with both parents.
They may feel torn between loyalties to parents/carers. Or feel rejected or abandoned. Or happy living away from parent(s). There can be insecurity, low self esteem and belief they can do something to reunite the family.
Bear children in mind
1.During access visits, parents may compensate by spoiling the children with treats or allowing them to have their way all the time. This can be stressful for the parent and not helpful to a child.
It may result in the child becoming demanding or aggressive after such visits, or ‘high’ on sugar, and having had little boundaries, controlling, aggressive and destructive .
2.The parents/carers may criticise each other to the child, or argue in their presence. This can be very upsetting and confusing.
3.Sometimes one of the parents may feel jealous of the child's relationship with the other parent and spoil the child to be favourite. Or the jealousy may be expressed in aggressiveness and negativity towards the child. Both reactions upset the child. The Golden Rule is put children first.
Top 10 Christmas Tips
1.Make arrangements for Christmas far in advance. Negotiate a time on Christmas day to see your children, or compromise and see them on St Stephen’s Day for your own special Christmas.
If you are not able to see them on Christmas day, ask to arrange a special phone or video call.
2.You could also agree to alternate years, so that you each get to spend Christmas Day with your children every other year.
3.Don’t try to compete with your child’s other parent. Over-spending leads to disappointment and heartache.
4.Agree a budget for you both to spend on the children, and discuss what you plan to get them. This avoids competition or the children getting identical gifts.
5.If you face Christmas Day alone, see if friends are in the same situation and make plans with them. Invite them for Christmas lunch or go out to volunteer together.
6.Put your children’s needs before your own. It’s not fair to ruin their special day by making them choose between parents.
7.Keep in touch with the resident parent to find out if your child has nativity plays or events you can see.
8.Your children will feel happier if you keep them involved with plans and arrangements. Communication between all benefits everyone.
9.If you are used to your children’s other parent doing the shopping, ask them for ideas.
10.As your children get older, they can have their own say in what they want to do for Christmas.