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Do's and don't of co-parenting at Christmas

3 Dec

Here are my eight tips on the do’s and don’ts of how to co-parent successfully over Christmas so you can all enjoy the season

Ariel shot of Mum and Dad holding little boys hand at Christmas table

As a child of divorce who only remembers Christmases where my parents were not together, I can tell you firsthand it is possible to have a great Christmas across two homes. Looking back now, what I didn’t take into consideration was what my parents went through to make that possible.

Christmas is traditionally seen as a time for family (of course people can have brilliant times with friends or on their own)  but it always brings up the issue of where will you spend it. This is why co-parenting after separation can be a particularly tricky time especially if it’s your first Christmas like this. The key to getting through is communication and compromise which are not always easy when emotions are running high.

Here are my eight tips on the do’s and don’ts of how to co-parent successfully over Christmas so you can all enjoy the season:

1. Make a plan in advance. Christmas is more than just one day, it’s a season and one that you are both going to want to share with your kids. Having a conversation and making a plan in advance will help you both prepare for the time you will have with and without your kids over the holiday. And remember, in some countries Christmas Eve is the big day. So you can always explain this to your children if you’re not spending the day together.

2. Consider what your children want. Children grow and evolve at different ages, but generally if they are young they will be more focussed on the traditions of the day. If they are older they may want some say in the Christmas plans so try to include them and their wishes in your decision making.

3. Consider extended family too. For the sake of your children, do also consider who in their extended family they should or need to see over the Christmas period. Grandparents often become collateral damage in divorces. This may mean compromising but remember who you are doing this for.

4. Share and be fair. Your children are going to want to spend time with both of you, so look at the Christmas period as a whole – be fair and agree to share the time. When I was a child I alternated between Christmas day with Mum one year and boxing day with Dad. Others prefer to have chunks of time. Whatever works for you, make certain it’s fair and gives the children an equal time with both of you.

5. Present a united front. This is fundamental for a successful co-parenting relationship at any time. Your children need stability and reassurance that is only achieved when you are united at Christmas and throughout the whole year. Once you have agreed your plan, stick to it. This may even include present giving - trying to do one between you, to avoid comparisons.

6. Don’t try and outdo one another. It can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to compensate for the fact this year will be different by trying to make it extra special. Or trying to beat your ex by putting on a ‘better Christmas’. This competitive mindset is unhealthy and damaging to your own self worth in the long run and puts your kids in the middle.

7. Make plans for when you don’t have the kids. Planning for when you don’t have the kids is just as important as planning your time with them. See it as an opportunity to do something different, something you have always wanted to do but couldn’t because you’re a big group or your ex-partner hated the activity. Go on holiday, spend time with friends, volunteer – there are plenty of options. Or you can revel in doing nothing - there is a reason why the phrase is ‘netflix and chill.’ Whatever you fancy, it’s up to you but make sure you do something you enjoy!

8. Communication is key. The main ingredient to any successful relationship, especially a co-parenting one, is to find a way to communicate that works for both of you. If that’s not face-to-face right now, then look to use email and get some professional help to work on brokering a healthy relationship that allows you to communicate and work together. Your intimate relationship may be over but your co-parenting relationship isn’t and nor will it be.

I hope with these tips you can enjoy the season and create happy memories for you and your children. As someone whose parents divorced when I was two, I can honestly say I have always loved Christmas and enjoyed my time with both parents, never did I feel sad they weren’t together! But if you do feel like it’s hard or you’re suffering, don’t do this alone - reach out to people (friends or family, or failing that there are lots of places you can contact including the Samaritans). Whoever you are and whatever your circumstances Christmas is a trying time, and even the most functional relationships get tested by it.  Just remember it’s supposed to be fun, and if it’s not, take a step back and try to get perspective.

If you can take the focus off your needs, and try to focus on others you will find this reaps benefits. It will also help you to not get caught up in the storm of Christmas planning, shopping, sorting, and trying to create perfection.

Good luck, and enjoy - plus always remember I am available and you can contact me through my website.

Nichole x

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