How to survive (enjoy?) your first Christmas as a single parent
If 2016 was the year you got divorced or separated from your partner, your first Christmas as a single parent with children is probably looming large in your thoughts.
You are not alone. In the UK, 114,720 couples divorced in 2013, according to the latest figures released by the ONS. Just under half of those couples (55,323) had children, with the majority having one or two children. Most of the children of divorcing parents were aged between 5-10, an age group whose excitement and enthusiasm for Christmas is seemingly endless.
Ask the children what they want
A survey showed that only 13% of divorced parents actually consulted their children as to where they wanted to spend Christmas. So, take time to talk with the kids as to what their ideal Christmas would look like, given the circumstances. Be prepared that they might want you both to spend the day together - according to the survey, 23% of divorced couples do just that.
Be prepared to travel
Whatever you decide in terms of who has the children on what date between 21 December and 3 January, it will inevitably involve extra travel. If a little extra fuel and the odd traffic jam is the price to pay for quality time with your children, then it’s probably worthwhile. If you have custody of the children, try not to make it hard on them (and your ex) by demanding the absent parent does all the driving or travelling.
Stay on speaking terms with your ex
This is perhaps the most difficult thing to do after a divorce, especially a recent one. However, if you have shared parental responsibilities for your children, you will have to communicate with your ex over child arrangements at some point. If you can, keep a channel open for discussion. If that proves too much, LGFL can help by writing to your ex over important child arrangements such as Christmas and other holiday arrangements. Our professional, impartial involvement can save a lot of emotional turmoil at a busy time of year.
The involvement of new partners and/or step children
You or your ex may have already found a new girlfriend, boyfriend or partner. These new partners may have children of their own, so your children’s family has suddenly expanded. It’s hard not to be concerned about the influence of this new family, such as the relaxing of hard-won ground rules, or kids picking up bad habits. However, the more relaxed you are about the new situation, the more accepting your children will be, provided there are no risks to the children.
Become more social this Christmas
Now that you are single again, why not make the most of it. In the survey, over 14% of divorced parents felt lonely during the Christmas period.
Consider taking up any party invitation you feel comfortable with, to expand your social circle again.
Arrange regular contact times to call or video chat with the kids even when they are not with you.
Why not do things that make you happy and perhaps helps other too, like walking a neighbour’s dogs or volunteering for a charity.
‘Badmouthing’ your ex
When a divorce has been bitter or hard-fought, you may be harbouring strong, negative feelings about your ex. Try not to voice them to your children and keep the atmosphere positive and enjoyable. Constant ‘dissing’ of the absent parent will simply increase the tension for your children and reduce their enjoyment of being with you. It may also affect future communications and arrangements with your ex.
Sort out Christmas child arrangements now
Now is the time to sort out your Christmas arrangements - see our recent blog for how to do this (if you haven’t done so already). Or call us for an appointment, for professional advice on any aspect of post-divorce family law, child arrangements, court orders and more.