Christmas Contact Checklist
1 December 2015 by Charlotte Knappett
Christmas is a very emotive time for everyone. It is particularly emotive when relationships have broken down and parents are separated. Children are enthralled with the excitement of Father Christmas, being off school and all the joys that come with the festive period.
For the majority of children their wish is to spend time with both of their parents (and extended families) and for their parents to get on. It is understandable that this is not always easy when relationships breakdown and the arrangements for the care of children over Christmas period can cause difficulties.
Here are our tips to try to assist parents making arrangements for their children over the Christmas period.
- “In my child’s shoes”. Try to think about the arrangements from a child’s perspective. Children do not wish to see the adults around them arguing. This is upsetting and distressing for them. They want to enjoy everything that is going on.
- Have realistic expectations of what the other parent/family members will agree. If there have been difficulties throughout the year making arrangements for a child to spend time with other adults in their life, then it is unlikely that there is going to be any significant change to this over the Christmas period. If that time has been limited leading up to Christmas it is unlikely that there is going to be an agreement to any great increase at this time.
- Plan ahead. Try to plan in advance rather than leave things to the last minute. Therefore, if you have not made plans already, try to do so now.
- Communicate. “Listen, consider, reflect, explain …” There is nothing more important than being able to communicate effectively. It is not simply a matter of letting the other parent know your plans, it is trying to explain quite clearly and logically the thinking behind those plans and listening to the other person’s view.
- Be open and honest. If for some reason you object to the other parent’s plans, then say something, but try to do so in a constructive and controlled way, explaining the reasons behind it.
- Try to be cooperative. Whilst, at times, the other parent may test your patience, or indeed respond emotively, try to think about the future and the ongoing relationship as parents and not just the immediate issue.
- The importance of sharing special events. Christmas is a special time for children. It is another milestone in their life. It is one that they will treasure and remember for the rest of their lives. It could also be one that negatively impacts on their memories of the Christmas period. Your focus is to ensure that this is a special time, and also appreciate that this needs to be shared with the other parent.
- The all important Christmas presents! Try to coordinate what you are buying for your child with the other parent. Every parent remembers being a child and writing their list for Father Christmas. Despite any differences that there might be between you as parents, it can be helpful for there to be a shared Christmas list so that there is no duplication of the Christmas presents. It may be that despite your separation it is possible for you both to purchase a joint present for your child to demonstrate unity as parents.
- Christmas Day does come round every single year and there will be other Christmases. There are many ways in which parents share Christmas. Either they divide the day itself or they have a separate Christmas Day on Boxing Day and alternate the following year. Try to be inventive and fair. Make use of other family members for handovers if relations are strained or there are safeguarding issues that require this. It will help minimise animosity, tension or difficulties that the child has to witness.
- Do you need to record the agreement in writing? It may be a good idea to put in writing what has been agreed so you can both refer to it in the event that there is any confusion with regards to the arrangements. There is always so much going on over the Christmas period that small details may be forgotten.
For further information about the ways in which Fisher Jones Greenwood can help with disputes regarding child arrangements, click here.