Sharing is Caring at Christmas
7th December 2020
Image: Corbett Le Quesne
Forget the saying “Christmas comes but once a year” and embrace “the more the merrier”.
Sharing is caring. I hear this all the time from my 3 year old son. As a parent I have been teaching him to share since he could grab a toy from his cousin but am I good at sharing? I am a family lawyer and I have been thinking a lot about how separated families arrange family life in two homes at Christmas.
Christmas, like any big family event, can bring a combination of pleasure and pain. While you may be looking forward to Christmas, you may be dreading it. It is not an easy time, especially if you have recently separated and this is your first Christmas as a two home family. If you are not with your children this year then that could be really hard. We have shared some ideas below to help make the best of the situation for the children and for yourself.
At Corbett Le Quesne we advocate not splitting Christmas Day unless that really is a workable and best option for your family. If it means stress, tension and rushed celebrations then is it really best for the children? We generally suggest that people alternate Christmas and allow each parent to have a proper length of uninterrupted time with the children. This allows everyone to relax and enjoy their time together and avoid unnecessary strain. The court certainly expects that both parents should act in the best interests of the children and, unless there is good reason not to, parents should positively promote a good relationship for the sake of the children.
Two homes could even mean double the fun. Two homes means two visits from Santa, two beds means two stockings, two lunches means two noisy crackers and two afternoons lazing around in Christmas onesies. Think of the memories you want to create for your children. Will they remember what day they celebrated Christmas or how they felt and what they did to celebrate it?
If you are not having your children for Christmas because they are with your ex, don't let the children feel guilty or bad about having fun with their mother or father. Make a plan in advance and make sure they know how much you love them and want them to have fun, even if you will miss them. And look after yourself. If you can spend some time getting yourself into the right mind set for Christmas, whether you have the children this year or not, look after yourself and you will all benefit.
“One can never have enough socks," said Dumbledore. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Co-ordinating presents and perhaps agreeing a budget can reduce potential conflict. If raising this issue will increase tension and cause problems then avoid the subject but be mindful of the impact on the children if presents could cause them to feel conflicted as between parents. Don’t spoil children with gifts, spoil them with love and attention.
Show them you understand they may have confused feelings – they may feel worry and anger. Let them know it is ok for them to feel happy when they are away from you. They may feel guilty if they have a nice time and that is the last thing you want.
Reassure them that Father Christmas will find them wherever they are!
Embrace traditions. Talk to the children about the traditions you want to keep and suggest some new ones that you can treasure for the future. If you are from countries with different traditions you can each make the most of celebrating your own heritage.
Involve extended family.
Don’t communicate any negative thoughts or feelings about your ex or how you may be feeling to the children. If you are worried you will be lonely without them, arrange something fun to do for yourself, there are lots of people in the same boat.
Make (or buy local) Christmas decorations for your new home and involve the children in decorating the tree and the house.
By sharing quality time between two homes and two people, you are giving the children two lessons in how to do the right thing even when it is really really hard. Children learn from everything parents do. They take it all in. Give them the gift of learning what “sharing is caring” really means.
This year forget “Christmas comes but once a year” and embrace “the more the merrier”.
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