Family & Divorce
Co-Parenting at Christmas
With the festive period upon us and Christmas just a few week’s or so away, preparations for the big celebration are in full swing.
Christmas can be a stressful time of the year, particularly for separated parents and their children. For some families this will be their first Christmas apart. Coming to an agreement on holiday arrangements can be challenging, but there are ways that separated parents can work co-operatively to ensure a positive experience for their children and themselves this Christmas.
The key to successful co-parenting at Christmas involves planning, communication, and compromise.
The sooner arrangements can be agreed, the better! Planning will avoid conflict and allows the other parent to plan their time effectively. Clear parental arrangements will provide clarity for the children and will manage their expectations about who they are staying with and when over the festive period.
Clear and prompt communication between co-parents is important, especially during the festive period. Even when an agreement is reached, communication should remain open and consistent.
Parents should try to resolve disagreements between themselves as the first option, this can be via text message or email if face to face discussions have proven difficult. Discussing matters with the help of a neutral third party may be an alternative option; this could be family member or mutual friend.
If parents are unable to move forward without professional help, mediation is also an effective tool to help parents make decisions. An independent mediator can facilitate discussions with the view of reaching a suitable outcome for both parents and the child(ren). Parents can also seek legal assistance, from solicitors who can communicate on their behalf to resolve disputes.
Co-parents should work towards being fair and flexible when dividing their time this Christmas. By splitting their days evenly, parents can minimise conflict or resentment. Some arrangements may not be practical and could be too disruptive for the child. Parents need to be prepared to compromise; this may mean allowing the other parent to spend more time with the children.
Things to consider
Aside from how the children’s time is going to be divided, co-parents should also consider the following:
- Christmas presents – Who is buying what? Parents should discuss this with each other to avoid doubling up on gifts or competition.
- Pick up and drop off logistics – What is the most suitable arrangement for both parents?
- Extended family – How will extended family be accommodated in your Christmas plans?
- Indirect contact – Will you be able to facilitate telephone or video calls? And if so, how frequently?
- New partners – How will this be managed?
- Future Christmas arrangements – Can the agreements continue annually?
Yvonne Taiwo, Paralegal in the Family Team, said:
“Christmas is a magical time of year for children, and arrangements on how their time will be divided during this time needs to be dealt with timely and sensitively. Parents must put their child(ren) first by prioritising their wishes and feelings over their own. With careful planning, effective communication, and a flexible approach, separated parents can work together to ensure that everyone can have a merry Christmas!”