We call the period of time leading into Christmas the “silly season” – and for good reason. Children are finishing school and parents are having to make arrangements to care for them whilst they continue to work; Christmas functions are happening which takes time away from home; plans are being made to see your former spouse or partner for Christmas Day changeover which can bring a sense of anxiety or dread; money is short as Christmas presents are not cheap and so on. So bearing these things in mind, it’s easy to see how people can be stressed this month.
For separated parents that are negotiating time with their children over the Christmas period, or for families that have Court Orders to rely upon, it’s important to keep calm and focus on your children’s’ best interests at this time of year. Here’s a few helpful hints to get through the festive season in one piece:
- Try to have the conversation or communication about the Christmas time now, don’t leave it until Christmas Eve to work out what time changeover is going to happen on Christmas Day. People are stressed at this time of year, and will only get more stressed as we get closer to 25 December, so try to have the conversation early.
- Let your children know where they will be spending Christmas Eve – the stress about Santa not knowing where they are can be overwhelming for a small child. Perhaps your child might want to write a short note to Santa to let him know the arrangements – this will also set in place a plan for the special Christmas days.
- Focus on how the changeover arrangements will suit your children and your family – perhaps the 12pm changeover on Christmas Day won’t work when that is the time that both families are sitting down to carve the turkey? Perhaps a little earlier or later in the day is better depending on your family?
- If possible, talk to your co-parent about what presents are being purchased for the children. It doesn’t need to be a situation of who gives the better present, but you might be able to avoid giving the same gift and having a disappointed child on Christmas Day. It might be that you are able to give presents that work together – such as a bike and a helmet – and your child will have the impression that you’ve been able to work together which will give that “warm and fuzzy” feeling.
- Try to remain calm and flexible if something goes wrong. We all know that if things can go wrong, they often will and Christmas is no exception. If there’s a Christmas emergency such as a child ending up in the emergency room at the local hospital because they have fallen off that brand new shiny bike, keep calm and do what your child needs. If there’s no fault from either parent, try not to blame.
- At the end of the day Christmas is about spending time with the people you love and enjoying your time together. If you’re not spending time with your child on Christmas Day, then make the days you spend with them special. In Australia, it seems that Boxing Day is the “main event” in some households, so think “outside the box” about making days other than 25 December special.
Hopefully these tips can help your family enjoy Christmas with a little less stress, and that the biggest “dramas” for the special Christmas days are finding batteries for the children’s new toys or finding enough space in the fridge for all the leftovers.
Each family is different, and if Court Orders are in place then parents may already have arrangements in place they are obliged to comply with. The above tips are simply suggestions and should not be considered as legal advice. If you would like advice on your particular circumstances, then please contact our office.
Author: Joelene Nel
Director: Sophie Pearson