Christmas is coming : 7 tips for a happier Christmas if you are separated or divorced with kids

The most magical time of the year – for children especially – is approaching fast. A time that should be no less magical for the children of divorced or separated parents.  Rachel Macwilliam, Family Law specialist at Penderlaw Solicitors, outlines some ways to have a happier Christmas when you are going through divorce or separation with kids.

Christmas can be a stressful time whether you are in a stable relationship or not.  The vision of a ‘perfect’ Christmas can sometimes set us up for a fall.  However, when the additional pressures of separation or divorce are added to all this, many people understandably find themselves struggling.

However, with some careful planning, good communication, and remembering above all that the children need to be thought about first and foremost, a difficult situation can be turned around into something far more positive. 

1.            Think about the children first
As I mentioned above, they’re the most important aspect of all this and the thing that both you and your ex care about most.  So, try to emphasise the positive to them if they are upset about not having Christmas with both of you. Two sets of presents, two Christmas Days, two celebrations.

2.            Be a grown-up about it
All very well to say and not an easy thing to do, but you are doing your children a big favour if you can pull it off.  Try not to compete for the children’s affection.  Coordinate presents rather than trying to outdo each other. Do your very best to create a harmonious atmosphere, rather than one of discord. That aspect will probably stay in their memories longer than anything else.

3.            Plan early and stick to the plan
Putting a plan in place will avoid any time pressures and enable you all to enjoy the festivities. Last-minute changes can come across as disrespectful to your ex as well as causing feelings of disruption and anxiety for your children. Whilst flexibility is an essential part of positive child arrangements, it is important to maintain consistency and provide stability.

4.            Create some new traditions
Rather than pining after ‘perfect’ Christmases gone by, perhaps now is the time to create some new traditions and can become a way of helping you to enjoy the present and even look with some excitement towards the future.  Maybe watching a favourite Christmas film on Christmas Eve snuggled down in your Christmas PJs, a walk with friends on Christmas Day and visiting Grandparents on Boxing Day.

5.            Involve your child / children
Whatever your child’s age, they are likely to cope better if they are involved in the arrangements rather than having them sprung on them, which can cause uncertainty and worry for them.  Teenagers may also have plans of their own to be taken into account so take time to listen to what they would like too.

6.            Agree manageable arrangements
Be considerate and realistic about what you can achieve in terms of time and travelling distance. There’s nothing worse than rushing around unable to enjoy the time because, wherever you are, you feel you ought to be rushing to get somewhere else.  If you decide to split Christmas Day itself, work out how this will happen and if one or both of you is likely to have had a drink.  You’ll also probably find that the children will want to take all their presents with them, opened or not!  Perhaps family or friends could help you with this. 

7.            Get professional help if you need it
If you and your former partner are struggling to come to an agreement yourselves, mediation would be worth considering. If mediation doesn’t work for you, you may want to look at getting an order for arrangements from a court.  As courts tend to get especially busy at this time of year, particularly with applications of this nature, it is wise to get this arranged sooner rather than later. Our Family Law team can assist you with this if you would like them to.

If you have a Child Arrangements Order in place, the details of what will happen at Christmas will probably already have been settled but sometimes problems do still occur if you or your ex want to do something different.

Hopefully the above will give you some help to try to have a happier Christmas if you are going through a divorce with kids or already divorced or separated, and enable you to create some positive experiences despite the choppy waters you are navigating.

If you feel you need some emotional support through this difficult period, organisations such as Relate and the Samaritans can help you.

Get in touch
If you have any Family Law related question, our friendly team would be glad to hear from you.  You can reach them on 01872 241408 or by emailing