Christmas Parenting Arrangements: Surviving the Festive Season

Article 15 December 2020

The shops are busy, the parties are being planned, and the decorations are going up… and for some families the dreaded Christmas parenting arrangements are being negotiated.  Unfortunately, the usual stresses in the lead-up to the festive season can be made even worse when parents are separated – six-week school holidays, dance concerts, parties, work events, and the pressure of multiple commitments can all be challenging. 

The most important thing is for everyone to keep the children’s best interests at heart and to try and make the holidays as easy, and enjoyable, as possible by sorting out the Christmas parenting arrangements in advance.

What can you do to make Christmas easier?

1. Planning ahead is the key. 

If you already have set parenting arrangements in place that stipulate when each parent will see the children, use those arrangements to schedule Christmas celebrations and activities ahead of time wherever possible.Sticking with pre-determined days and times may help to minimise any potential conflict with your former partner or spouse.

If you don’t have formal parenting arrangements, try to plan ahead of time and avoid too many last-minute changes of plans or requests for ‘extra’ time that can create tension.

Negotiate what is important to both parents wherever possible and try to be reasonable about sharing time with your children.For example, some people like to exchange presents or attend church on Christmas Eve, so that is the most important time for them, whereas for others it is Christmas Day.If the distance between the two parents’ homes is not an issue, some families prefer to split Christmas Day which allows one parent to have lunch with the children, while the other has dinner.This can then be alternated the following year.

2. Communication helps.

Some separated couples are lucky enough to find communication easy, where others find it almost impossible.  Find a way to communicate that avoids using the children to pass on messages and shield them from any tension or conflict if possible.  Schedule dates early and make sure everyone is informed about the arrangements ahead of time. 

In many situations, once an agreement has been reached over how the children will spend Christmas, it can help to document the decision and include it in any formal parenting arrangements to minimise the risk of conflict or discord in the future.

If you need to discuss your Christmas parenting arrangements, or you are finding it difficult to agree on a solution that is fair for both the parents and the children, it may help to speak with one of our experienced family law team members.  Call Maidei on ph 02 8556 0130 to find out what the best option for your family might be.