Christmas Parenting and Easing the Stress
The Christmas holidays are usually a wonderful time of the year where families all get together and celebrate. However, for some separated families with children, these holidays may be a time of sadness, stress and bitterness. There are ways that this can be managed with effective prior planning.
Let’s explore how parenting arrangements can be organised over the Christmas period using a five step plan, which will enable children to spend quality time with both parents.
- Remember: Children Have Rights – Parents Have Responsibilities
The Family Court’s paramount consideration with regard to children is to ensure that any arrangements are made “in the best interests of the child”.
During this time of the year it is especially important to keep this in mind when discussing arrangements with the other parent. While it may be easy to say that the best interests of the child are that they spend the majority of the time with one parent or the other, it is always important to remember that, by law, this term refers to having a meaningful relationship with both parents, provided that the child is protected from physical and psychological harm. These are the primary considerations.
The key to achieving a mutually amicable holiday arrangement for the children is for parents to communicate with positive intention. This can only happen if parents are willing to put aside their own feelings and consider what is best for the child. Resist the temptation to use the communication time to air personal grievances and focus upon what can be done to ensure that the child enjoys a memorable holiday. Parents locked in bitterness can slow down the process and be unable to be objective. If this is happening, a mediator is very useful for negotiating and setting up fair and stable holiday arrangements for the children. If this is not possible or appropriate, parents can make greater progress if they’re willing to step back and consider the children’s interests, getting to a “give and take” position. If they can do this then they are setting the field for reciprocal gestures of kindness and goodwill.
- Be Understanding
This ties in with the above point that if parents are willing to work hard at communicating positively with the child’s interests coming before their own, resolution can be reached with a happy outcome for the child. This is especially critical over the holiday period where the children are going to be spending time with each other’s families. Parents may find issues arising such as the need to amend changeover times, due to nobody’s fault. Remember step 2 and communicate broken agreements at the first possible opportunity. Then remember step 1 and consider ‘the best interests of the child’. The more reasonable that parents can be, the better it will be for the child.
- Build Trust
Trust is built by making small agreements and keeping them. Have an agreed plan in place and do your best to stick to it. Child psychologists agree that children need consistency in their schedules and this is even more critical when co-parenting. Children will learn to use inconsistent parenting styles to play one parent off against the other. Poor consistency with respect to parenting can also lead to attachment issues with children. This can cause a range of social, behavioural and emotional problems for children. If the child has experienced consistency in parenting all year do not let the festive season undermine everything you have both worked hard to achieve. Have a plan in place and stick to it.
- Be Emotionally Intelligent
That is, be emotionally prepared by accepting that separation is difficult, causing all involved to become vulnerable. Having to spend time away from children at Christmas can cause heartache for parents. Being overwhelmed with sadness and self-pity does nobody any good. If these strong feelings are not handled and healed, they can do a lot of damage and will be sensed by children, often causing them to feel guilty at their situation, about which they can do nothing. Know and accept that this time of the year is going to be difficult, and take steps to minimise the upset. Parents would be wise to use the time without children to do something that will bring them happiness and satisfaction, making themselves much more appealing to their children upon their return. All children want is for their parents to be happy, and it’s important that parents can demonstrate resilience and strength, rather than falling apart, which can be frightening to children. By creating happy and fulfilling experiences to enjoy during their children’s absence, parents will be going a long way to build positive and worthwhile relationships with both their children and themselves.