Surviving Your Split: What do you do for the holiday season?
Surviving your split this holiday season.
Family holidays at the end of the year are most dreaded by family lawyers. Parents lose sight of what the holiday season should be about, says Rebekah Mannering, author of Surviving Your Split.
Emotions run high and family lawyers are asked to sort Christmas arrangements out for clients at the last minute.
Here are the typical pitfalls for families facing their first holiday season since spliting.
Christmas can be a long and overwhelming day for little and not so little kids. Many parents negotiate an arrangement where children wake up with one parent and go to the other parent at lunchtime or just after lunchtime. It is important for children to be able to share significant celebrations with both parents and both sides of their family, but just be mindful that an early start, lots of presents, sugar and people can equal a total meltdown for even the most chilled out child.
Some parents negotiate an arrangement where the children have all of Christmas Day with one side of their family, and all of boxing day with the other and then visa versa the year later. Other parents find that with planned breaks for down time, the kids cope well with sharing Christmas Day itself. Still other parents take it in turns to have blocks of time at Christmas, so they can visit relatives.
Every child is different, and every family is different.
A spike in domestic violence
Sadly, Christmas can also be overwhelming for adults too and calls to Domestic Violence services tend to rise during this time.
For controlling ex partners, ruining Christmas can be too good an opportunity to pass up, and if you are dealing with an ex like this, very clear court orders spelling out exactly what the arrangements for Christmas are and setting boundaries around communication can help.
A mix of financial stress and alcohol can lead to simple misunderstandings or arguments spiralling out of all control, leading to terrible outcomes including the arrest and / or hospitalisation of warring parents. Not great Christmas memories for children. Be mindful that alcohol and drugs do not help volatile situations and “speaking your mind” even it if it warranted is just not helpful when it is in front of the children.
Competitive parenting can lead to financial ruin
Another issue we find that causes parents’ terrible anxiety is competitive parenting around Christmas. Parents try to outdo each other by giving the children the most expensive presents, the most food and lollies or the fanciest dishes. Of course, children usually just want to spend relaxed time with their family and friends, and usually have long forgotten the presents and food by the time the credit card is paid off.
The effect of conflict on children
Children feel secure and loved when the adults important to them behave in a calm and dependable way. When children are exposed to parental conflict then they are at greater risk of developing emotional, social and behavioural problems.
Think about the kind of Christmas you want your children to remember. Do you want children to remember that Christmas where mummy and daddy were screaming each other at changeover and the police were called? Or that Christmas where mummy and daddy were polite and civil to each other and behaved like adults.