“I want to see my children at Christmas”
Christmas is coming. For many parents this is a happy occasion spent opening presents with the children and spending time as a family. For some other people however, Christmas is actually a very lonely time. It can be a distressing time feeling deprived of seeing children at Christmas. The purpose of this article is to give a few tips those who find themselves in the situation of planning child arrangements at Christmas.
Put the child first in any contact arrangement
The first thing I recommend actually applies to any situation where there is a dispute about contact arrangements. Try to put yourself in your children’s shoes. The difference is that at Christmas, and this is perhaps the same on their birthday, they want to have a special happy day. They do not want to be caught up in arguments, they want to have fun. Therefore try asking yourself, if you were the child where would you want to spend Christmas? Maybe you spent Christmas with the children last year, so maybe this year they should spend it with the other parent? Maybe they have siblings who they would like to spend Christmas day opening their presents with? If you live close to the other parent, maybe you can both spend time with the children on Christmas day? Sometimes by asking yourself these questions it will help focus minds on the most important thing which is of course the children.
Secondly, do not leave it to the last minute to sort out the arrangements for Christmas. Chances are the other parent may have made plans which the children are already excited about. You may also find that plans have already been made for the children to go away for Christmas. Try to let the other parent know as early as possible about your proposals. At least this way there is time to work out a compromise.
Another piece of advice is to be flexible. Sometimes it will not be possible to see your children every Christmas. As I mentioned, maybe you could alternate Christmas day with the other parent. A lot parents I help separate the Christmas and New Year period. So in one year one parent will have the children from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day and the other parent will have the children from New Years Eve until they return to school. For a lot of parents, this arrangement allows each of you to see your children over the holiday period. As children get older they will have different priorities. You’ll be surprised how quickly the time will fly before they start having boyfriends or girlfriends who they will want to see. Therefore it’s a good idea to start being flexible now.
The idea behind this is to try to get you and the other parent talking about contact arrangements. However there is no point doing this a few weeks before Christmas. You need to do this much earlier. At least a couple of months earlier. If you have left it too late, don’t worry, it may not be too late to approach the other parent. If you are not able to, maybe a trusted family relative could act as the go-between?
Court is always the last resort
Please do not fall into the category of parents who think they make can make a last minute application to Court to sort out contact over Christmas. Please remember attempting mediation is now normally a pre-requisite and the chances are it will be too late and the earliest court hearing you could get will fall after Christmas.
Plan early with the child’s needs at the center of your plan
The key to arranging contact over Christmas is to do it early. It is just as important to think as if you were your child and try to be flexible with the other parent.