With the Christmas holidays looming, you might be wondering how to keep the Christmas magic alive for your kids after getting a divorce.
While it can be a tricky time to navigate, there are some things you can do to make the holidays still feel like a fun and magical time for your children.
Here are some tips from leading divorce lawyer in Perth, Ella Hickman from Hickman Family Lawyers.
Make Plans With Your Ex
Making plans on how or where the kids will spend Christmas has to be a joint decision made by both parents, with the ultimate goal being for the kids and parents to share this joyous occasion as peacefully and happily as possible.
A mutual agreement means giving and taking, so be prepared to make some compromises to ensure the whole family gets to feel the magic that Christmas can bring.
Ideally, plans for Christmas or other holidays should be set up during the divorce process, potentially as part of the Parenting Plan. But if not, it’s not the end of the world, as children grow, circumstances change, and plans need to be continually adjusted.
Together Or Separate?
If this is your first Christmas after your divorce and emotions are still running high, perhaps let Christmas be the time for letting go of the past and looking to the future. You could try to put emotions aside and stick to a family tradition where the children get to spend the entire Christmas Day with both parents. That way, nobody gets to spend Christmas on their own.
If that isn’t possible, there are other ways of keeping everyone happy. You have the options of both parents being together for present openings, which is really a special occasion for all kids, or kids opening their presents with each parent individually at different times.
Another idea would be for your kids to spend Christmas Eve with one parent and Christmas Day with the other. You could look at alternating these days over the years to make it ‘fair’.
Whatever option you choose will be the right one for your family, as long it is agreed upon by both parents.
It’s Not A Competition
Another common problem arises, when both parents try to outdo each other by buying expensive or bigger presents. Kids will usually quickly cotton on to this “competition” and can try to take advantage of this. This can become a problem when one parent is not as financially secure as the other. Try not to do it.
Some people choose to buy combined gifts, showing the kids you’re still a family unit and also to prevent any possible tension between the parents. It may also be a good idea to discuss gifts with your ex, to avoid doubling up on the same or similar gifts.
Discuss Travel Arrangements
If either parent is planning to be away with the kids during Christmas, it’s important, and perhaps a condition of your Parenting Plan, to discuss all travel arrangements well in advance.
Both parents need to be flexible and give the kids the opportunity to travel and spend quality time with the parent they are not living with. If it’s you that will be travelling, ensure your ex has an equal chance to travel at a different time, or perhaps during the following Christmas.
Keep Family Traditions Alive
It is vitally important for any family to try to keep as many family traditions as possible alive, minimising the effect the divorce may have had on them. Perhaps it could be present opening at a particular time or place, a Christmas Eve tradition, a Christmas lunch, a morning at the beach or attending a Christmas event or service.
It may also help to try and remember what each extended family does for Christmas – if your ex’s family always does a lunch, you may agree to the children going with your ex for that part of the day. Similarly, if Christmas Eve is a big deal for your side of the family, remind your ex of that when you are having your discussions about who will spend what time with the kids.
Whatever traditions you had as a family, try to keep them alive.
Start New Traditions Too
There is also no harm in creating new traditions to welcome the changes in your lives. That can be exciting too.
Sometimes traditions are sparked off just by doing something everyone enjoys. It could be a family gathering somewhere, or simply watching a Christmas movie with the kids on Christmas Eve, anything.
The better prepared everyone is, the less stressful it will be, especially if it’s your first Christmas after divorce. The first Christmas after your divorce is often the hardest. No matter how amicable the divorce may or may not have been, there will be changes in everybody’s lives.
By planning well ahead, everyone, including the kids, have more time to adjust their expectations of the changes to their old traditions.
Include Extended Family
Don’t forget to include both sets of grandparents and extended family members in your plans. Whatever they are, plan enough time for you and your kids to enjoy some quality family time with all those who love you and matter the most.
In today’s world everything, including Christmas, can feel commercialised and just another reason to spend lots of money on material things that may soon be forgotten. But it is only the special little moments you may have shared with your kids and loved ones during this special period that will remain permanently embossed on your memory for the rest of your life. Such is the magic of Christmas.
Ella Hickman is the owner and Principal of Hickman Family Lawyers, one of the leading family law firms in Perth. She practices almost exclusively in family law in Perth and has a particular interest in parenting and children’s issues, matters arising from domestic violence in relationships, and property settlement cases.
She has a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Psychology) from the University of Western Australia and has been practising as a barrister and solicitor since 2014.