Standing in line at a supermarket checkout in Bath the other day, I overheard two teenage sisters and a friend discuss Christmas. It wasn’t a conversation filled with joy or excitement about the forthcoming festivities but on where and with whom they would be this Christmas holiday.
“Maybe we should do Christmas Eve with Dad then go up to Mum’s Christmas Day. That way it would be one day each” suggested one sister to the other. “Ok let’s not talk family stuff right now” was the frustrated response.
As Constance Ahrons in her book “We’re still family” reminds us, as children get older, they want and need flexibility in their living arrangements. They want to have their needs considered more by their parents and be able to transition between households on their schedules, not their parents. Often they are far less concerned about the specific number of days per week they spend being with one parent or another and more on how their parents relationship will affect the emotional climate during the transitional period between parental households.
These wants and concerns can be particularly evident at family events like Christmas which can sometimes turn a dream into a nightmare. As someone once told me – “what really upset me was how my parents kept fighting about whether I spent more time with one of them than the other. It made me feel that what matter to them was who won that fight not the time with me.”
This Christmas, let’s
- Put our children first – The Christmas season is centred on children. So focus on them. Ask what you can do to ensure the holidays are happy and productive for them.
- Share time with children over the Christmas period – Christmas is a time when families can focus on what unites rather than what divides them. Unless parents live miles apart, there is no reason why children cannot see and be with both parents over the Christmas holiday if that is what they want.
- Help children remain in contact with both parents and extended family – A simple telephone call to say “Happy Christmas” to the other parent maybe all that is needed. Grandparents, Uncles and Aunts etc are also an integral part of a child’s life.
Perhaps the greatest gift you can give your child this Christmas and beyond is to love your children more than you hate your (ex) spouse and work cooperatively with that person to co-parent your children