Its almost that time of year again – tinsel and gifts and seafood and Christmas carols in the summer sun with your family. Magical, right? Unless you have recently separated. In which case, fighting to spend time with your children over the Christmas period can be more stressful than braving the crowds at your local shopping centre on Christmas Eve!
Whilst it is understandable that both parents want to share the special holiday with their children, it is important that your children’s needs and best interests are kept as the main considerations.
Nothing can ruin the Christmas period faster than family fighting especially in situations where children are involved. The best thing that you and your ex-partner can do is to be civil and pleasant to one another. I am sure this is not the first time that you have faked being happy or put on a show for your children or your families.
Separated parents often feel a lot of guilt particularly around the Christmas period. Parents are aware that their children are unhappy about the breakup of their family, which can feel a whole lot worse over the Christmas period. As a result, some parents try and overcompensate for the divorce or separation and end up spending lots of money on gifts as a way to compete with the other parent.
Children just want the love and attention of their parents far more than things. Particularly with older children, they do not want to feel like they are being bought or having to have both parents compete with one another. Keep the Christmas shopping to your regular budget and attempt to spend quality time with your children, they will appreciate it more and it will strengthen the bond between you during this difficult time. It is also important to try, and coordinate presents with your ex-partner so that you do not end up buying the children the same thing.
It may seem pointless after separation to adhere to traditions particularly when the family unit is no longer together. Children love traditions, so if old ones do not work anymore, create new traditions that you and your children can share for years to come.
It’s important to try and make the Christmas holidays special for you and your children regardless of what else is going on. Ensure that the children can see the extended family and other loved ones. Maintaining these relationships for your children are particularly important during separation.
The first Christmas holiday following separation is going to be difficult. It is likely that both parents will want to spend time with their children. It is important to be flexible. Try and work with your ex-partner and create a schedule that works well for both of you, and one that is in the best interests of your children. If you can create an environment where there is little tension, stress or arguments the children will not feel like they are the centre of their parents fight and separation.
The closer the Christmas holidays get, the higher the stress levels so it is important that parties attempt to reach a reasonable agreement in advance. Always ensure the focus of discussions are about what is in the best interests of the children, and offer proposals that benefit the children, rather than considering what is the most convenient plan for you. It is important to remember that as the adults you chose to separate, not the children so do not allow them to feel the brunt of it. As a parent your responsibilities are to ensure that your children have a meaningful relationship with the other parent.
Try to compromise and find solutions. I am sure that both parties are wanting their children to be happy over Christmas and to ensure they are creating joyful memories. Only you as their parent can ensure that happiness is created for your children.
If you have concerns surrounding your children’s arrangements and you are wanting the Family Court of Western Australia to make an order regarding the Christmas school holiday period, to have your matter heard before Christmas, the application needs to be filed no later than close of registry on the second Friday of November.
If you currently have no arrangements in place to see your Children at Christmas, you may want to consider filing an Application with the Family Court of Western Australia.
We understand that being a single parent over the Christmas period may be a daunting experience. However, know that many families all over Perth have survived the transition and have gone on to be stronger and happier family units. If you need the assistance of the Court, or require advice around spending time with your Children, we are here to help.
Author – Solicitor, Sarah Gresham
Photo by Images by Carolyn Parker