It’s been a strange year. It’s been a lonely year for many. And now Christmas is looming on the horizon.
For separated parents, Christmas is often a bittersweet time so I am going to discuss co-parenting over Christmas.
What’s happening this year?
We still adore watching our kids get excited in the run up to the big day, talking about Santa or presents or seeing family. But for many separated parents we know we won’t get to spend the whole time with our children as they also need to go to their other home. Unfortunately, there are some parents who are alienated from their children and don’t get to see them at all. And that’s a tough place to be.
Here and now, I want to talk about how as co-parents you might want to approach Christmas. Everyone has their own way of approaching the holiday season. Some spend it together still as a whole original unit, others swap between having the children over Christmas or New Year. Some do alternate years and take the whole holiday period. But in my experience as a co-parent coach, the best thing you can do is have a regular plan. That way your children know what’s coming and they can prepare themselves emotionally for it.
Through the eyes of the children
There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’, but I always encourage parents to see it from their child’s perspective. And generally that’s being able to see both parents at some point over the holidays. Of course Christmas isn’t just about parents. It’s about wider families, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Trying to fit everybody in can feel like a minefield. It can be helpful to have a plan of who you’re going to see and when. You might also want to schedule in ‘family days’, when you’re not seeing anyone outside the immediate family. It can important for children to reset a little, and these lower key days can really enable that.
Remember that anyway, it can be quite stressful for a child of divorced parents to move from one set of people to another and swap roles and house rules. One way to make it easier for your child is to always be amicable and transactional. Be polite. Whatever is going on for you, remember you’re a parent and that demonstrating to your child that you can be polite to your ex will make them feel much more secure.
Here are five ways that you can keep your child feeling safe and secure during a Covid Christmas.
- Share Christmas lists with your ex and agree in advance what you are going to buy.
- Try and have an hour or two as a whole unit if possible, maybe share a mince pie, or give your child a joint present. Demonstrate that you can unite for them if you need to.
- If you’re not living near each other or are isolating, face time or skype or call on Christmas day, so your child can speak to the parent they are not with.
- Have some small presents under the tree from the other parent (post or deliver these well in advance), that your child can open. This helps your child feel held in a parental bubble and assured that you communicate and are fine to be around each other. (whatever it is you might feel inside).
- And finally at handover, always be polite, be upbeat with your child (changing houses is always a big deal), and sent them off with a kiss, a hug and maybe a treat or two. If you need to cry, or scream or shout. Do it when they are out of earshot.