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Separated: Let the whole family have a happy Christmas

In the increasingly commercialised world of Christmas, it is sometimes forgotten that the focus of the festive season should be the family and children in particular.

In Jersey there are many parents who are divorced and separated: Christmas can be a very stressful time of the year. Often the children will be caught in the middle of all of their parents’ emotions and strains and they can be unfairly expected to take sides. It is really important to put aside the emotions at this time of year for the sake of the children.

Here are a few thoughts from Advocate Rose Colley on how separated parents can make Christmas as happy and stress-free as possible:

  • Try to ensure that the children spend an appreciable amount of time with each part of the family including any grandparents;
  • It helps if the children know in advance where they are going to be and when during the Christmas season. Most children will love the idea of having two Christmas Days, as long as plans are organised and they know what to expect;
  • Never criticise the other parent or members of his or her family in front of the children. This is really crucial at this time of the year when children will want to feel part of both parent’s celebrations;
  • If this is the first Christmas that the family has spent apart, children (and their parents) may be feeling particularly sad and nostalgic. It is really important to let the children know that although things will be different, this time of the year is still very special and family occasions such as the opening of the presents will still take place but perhaps with each parent separately;
  • Never try to compete with the other parent by buying gifts that you know that the other parent cannot afford – try to liaise over presents in a positive way;
  • The children will have two homes now so it is important not to cause tension by telling them where they can and can’t keep their gifts. Let them choose so long as this is practical;
  • Don’t feel you can’t talk about previous Christmases when you were all together. Happy memories are very precious for parents and children alike;
  • Ensure that the children can telephone or Skype the absent parent, especially if the children cannot see them on Christmas Day;
  • Never let the children see how upset or hurt you may still be feeling.

All of this is very difficult to do at this time of the year but hopefully the above advice will help make sure that the children enjoy Christmas, whichever parent they are with.

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