Preparing for Christmas - after separation or divorce
Christmas is a tough time for families after separation – even for those parenting together following a less acrimonious separation or divorce or who may have been apart for several years. Much of the problem is the unrealistic expectation society places on Christmas being perfect. Combine this with money worries, the logistics of you both wanting Christmas morning with your kids and the feelings of guilt and loneliness that can be overwhelming.
Getting through Christmas is an important part of the journey you, your children and extended family all have to go through. Even though it can be difficult for all involved, in different ways there are some things you can do to make it better not worse. Planning and flexibility are the magic words here
- Don’t pretend it can be the same as when you were together - Allow yourself to feel your emotions.
- It’s important to put on a brave face for the children, but try and give yourself a bit of time alone to help deal with your feelings.
- Talk about your feelings as a family and maybe share ideas for a ‘different’ type of Christmas; sometime sharing your thoughts will help you feel closer.
- Don’t try and be super mum or super dad and try and do everything. It’s exhausting and pressured for everyone. Better to stagger the Christmas celebrations so that the children can spend a relaxed time with both of you.
Remember it’s only natural to feel especially protective of your children at Christmas and maybe quite defensive. But don’t let feeling guilty mean you give into pester power from little ones or teenagers pressuring you to spend what you can’t afford. It’s all too easy to do this especially if kids aren’t living with you. Make time for cheap or free ‘treats’ that everyone can look forward to……kids often know that money doesn’t buy love better than their parents do.
Money can't buy you love – we know it, but there’s a strong link particularly for mums, between spending money and showing love so it is easy to overspend. However most people care more about the thought that went into presents, rather than how much they cost so try and keep that in mind. And most importantly what kids’ value is relaxed time with their parent/s more than expensive material things. Overspending not only sets a bad example but just sets up more problems afterwards which in the long run will make things worse for everyone. And then the more stressed you are about money the less able you will be to focus on your kid’s needs – so leave the credit card at home if you feel tempted to overspend.
- Set a budget and stick to it, shopping early and taking practical steps to avoid overspending is crucial.
- Talk to children and your ex about arrangements well in advance – realistic expectations can prevent disappointment.
- Get your family on side and to recognise that doing things a little differently could help everyone deal with loss, divorce, or new family arrangements.
- Try not to be too controlling or take things personally. For example, if your ex-partner says they can only see their child for a certain amount of time that doesn't mean they don't care. Instead of getting angry, organise things differently next Christmas
- Most importantly keep in mind that now is not the time to sort out problems and gripes. Christmas is stressful enough as it is. If possible, wait until things have settled down in the New Year.
- And remember don’t be too hard on yourself - talk to friends or use the ‘Forum’ or the ‘Listening Room’ on the parent connection if you need help sorting through your feelings.