Re: Winter 2013/14 - Page 25

Christmas conundrum Christmas is supposed to be a time of goodwill and cheer but for many parents who are separated agreeing with whom the children will spend Christmas with can create a lot of tension and stress. Communicate As hard as it may be you and your former partner must put aside any personal differences and communicate with each other. Do not discuss the arrangements when the children are around. Avoid discussing the arrangements at contact hand overs otherwise you risk exposing the children to animosity and causing them upset. Be child focussed Think about what is best for your child. Take into account the wishes and feelings of the children in light of their age and understanding. Do not ask the children to decide where they would prefer to spend Christmas though, this is unfair and puts them in a very difficult position. There is no hard and fast rule about the arrangements for children during special occasions such as Christmas, you have to look at the circumstances of each individual case and consider what is best for the child. As difficult as it can be it is best for the parents to try and work together to reach an amicable agreement with regards to the arrangements for their children during the Christmas period. If you are separated from the other parent of your child here are some tips to help you sort out the arrangements at Christmas: Plan ahead Having the arrangements worked out at least a month in advance is recommended. Having some clarity and certainty about the arrangements in advance can help reduce tensions and give everyone some peace of mind, it will also give you time to get help if you need it from say a mediator or lawyer. Be positive Do not speak negatively to your child about the other parent, or criticise their plans with the other parent. Any negativity will impact on the Christmas celebrations and tarnish you child’s memories of Christmas for the rest of their life. Think long term and don’t lose perspective. Remember Christmas is just one day out of 364. Take time to enjoy the lead up to Christmas with your child in the time you do have together. Think about what is going to happen over the next few years. Don’t forget that there will be other Christmases and special occasions when the children can spend time with you. If you really can’t agree the Christmas arrangements then you can try and work things out through mediation, collaborative law, solicitor led negotiation or the courts. The child is the most important person to consider when making arrangements for Christmas and if their parents can do this in an amicable way their experience of Christmas is likely to be a much happier one. By Gemma Hope 23