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With Christmas on the horizon, the reality of spending Christmas as a newly separated family can trigger anxieties. Strong feelings about the breakdown of any relationship can be intensified by the expectation that Christmas is a family time. Even strong relationships can struggle with the strains and expectations of a perfect Christmas. As a newly separated parent, just getting through the Christmas holiday can often be its own Christmas miracle. Feelings of loneliness or jealously over a new partner can be particularly difficult to manage.

There is no magic fix but there are coping strategies you can adopt to help avoid tensions and enjoy the festivities. With careful planning, your first Christmas apart can be enjoyable. To help here are 12 days of Christmas tips to enjoying the holiday

  1. It may be emotionally difficult so accept that the family will not be together. Allow yourself some time to process your emotions. Plan a get together with friends and family for when the children are not spending time with you.
  2. Don’t leave planning until the last minute. Often children take turns to spend Christmas Day with each parent so work out who the children will be spending Christmas with in plenty of time and stick to arrangements.
  3. Be flexible and take turns. Other family members may well have strong opinions but try to avoid competing family sides. Recognise that each parent has an important role to play and always remember to put the childrens’ needs first when making any arrangements.
  4. Don’t ask your children to chose where they want to be on Christmas morning. Make a plan with the other parent for them. If it involves travelling any significant distance consider meeting half way to share the journey.
  5. Talk about your new arrangements with the children well in advance. Using an advent calendar to help young children understand who is looking after them and when over the Christmas holiday may help.
  6. Be on time. Simple but effective – to make sure everyone’s plans run smoothly and avoid fraying nerves.
  7. Relax. Whatever the problems you are experiencing following a separation, Christmas is not the best time to try and sort them out as tensions are likely to be running high.
  8. If they are not spending the day with you, put on a brave face for the children and remember you want them to have fun, even if it’s not with you.
  9. Reinvent old family traditions and don’t be afraid to get creative and make up new ones. If the children do not wake up with you on Christmas Day, consider adopting a Scandinavian approach and celebrate Christmas Eve instead.
  10. Avoid using food or alcohol as coping mechanisms. If you find yourself struggling, seek professional help from your GP. Organisations such as Mind or The Samaritans are open over Christmas.
  11. Don’t overspend on presents if you are on a limited budget. Children don’t need vast numbers of or extravagant gifts. What they really want is to know they are loved by both parents, it is your attention and time they need.
  12. Don’t forget to allow time for grandparents, if they are available, as they have a significant role to play.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.