When you think of Christmas you think tradition, whatever that may mean to you and those closest to you. Everyone has their own way of celebrating and different ideas of what Christmas means to them.

Most of us want our Christmas to be ‘perfect’. We put huge amounts of effort into the planning, we know what gifts we are buying, what food we are eating, we plan trips to the pantomime and take the children to see Father Christmas. We want it to be an all-round magical experience.

For families going through divorce or separation, this time of year may seem impossible. The family unit has changed and the challenges you face may feel unimaginable.

When things get tough the first thing we want to do is bury our heads in the snow, however sooner or later we will have some decisions to make. One of the biggest considerations for any parent will be how and when they will spend time with their child(ren) during the Christmas period.

It is key when considering the arrangements for your child(ren) that you try to communicate with the other parent effectively, are forward thinking and keep your child(ren)’s wellbeing at the forefront of your mind.

When we separate from our partners we can feel hurt, confused, angry and resentful. These are natural feelings which should be acknowledged, however when we allow these emotions to guide our decision-making process this will inhibit our ability to communicate successfully.

It is important for parents to communicate without using emotive language, and if face-to-face communication is difficult, to explore other methods of communication. Children are incredibly perceptive and will pick up on animosity between parents which will cause them worry and upset. When there is a family breakdown, children experience their own feelings of loss and guilt, so do not need to become burdened with ‘adult issues’. There is no right or wrong way to parent, nobody is on the ‘good’ or ‘naughty’ list.

The view of the Family Court is that children have a right to a relationship with both parents unless that relationship is so detrimental that this is not possible. If you are able to agree the arrangements for your child(ren) then there is no need for the Family Court to become involved.

If you are struggling to communicate with your ‘ex’ you may wish to seek legal advice and/or engage in family mediation. Mediation will facilitate discussions in a child-focused way with the assistance of an independent mediator. This can be a cost and time effective way to resolve matters.

If communication has broken down completely then you could consider making an application to the Court for Orders as to where your child(ren) will live and how and when you will spend time with them. Such applications should be made sooner rather than later.

The most valuable gift any of us can give our child(ren) this Christmas is to make them feel loved and secure. How we manage ourselves during a process of separation will shape our children’s experiences way beyond the festive season. Children are for life, not just for Christmas.


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