Helen Benussi, Director at Benussi & Co Ltd, Divorce and Family Lawyers, looks at ways to cope during divorce at Christmastime.
Christmas tends to conjure up images of fun and family gatherings for many people, but for divorcing couples with children, the picture can look starkly different.
“In general, the festive season is a frantic time even for the happiest of families, but for those coping with separation it can prove a frightening prospect with feelings of guilt, frustration, jealousy and anger all surfacing.
In our experience, taking a balanced view with a positive approach that will allow children the opportunity to share their parents, helps them to enjoy a calmer, happier festive season. Naturally, there are feelings of loneliness that will surface for either parent without the children, however negative feelings of guilt and fear can be magnified through the children, so planning ahead really helps to reduce stress for them.
Whether it is the first time Christmas that will be spent separated from your children or whether as a divorcing couple the thought of coping brings feelings of dread, particularly regarding when and where the children will spend Christmas Day, we always hope that clients can remember that making memories is far more important for everyone.
It is natural that the partner who will not be involved on Christmas Day will feel the separation, particularly as it is the most family oriented time of the year. Being able to keep busy and plan around the date has helped many of our clients to cope with sharing children during the festivities.
While there may be almost unbearable pressures from family and friends during the build up, forcing the children to choose is something we would never advise. In general also, it never works to hand the children over on Christmas Day, as children find it distressing.
Double The Celebrations
If there are two homes that want to celebrate, with only one Christmas, then it is wiser to divide the holidays by listening to the children’s wishes first and foremost. As divorce proceedings begin, Christmas and other special holidays should be considered well in advance, giving it a high priority, so that everyone knows where they stand and can prepare.
Focusing on the children’s needs rather than what seems fair to the adults will minimise the impact of a Christmas that incorporates some degree of separation for those involved. Planning an ‘alternative’ Christmas ahead of time gives everyone the opportunity to adjust to a new way to celebrate. This can begin as the divorce proceedings progress, with parents deciding to agree on having the children every other Christmas Day.
There can be few things worse than warring parents for any children, so by contrast, having two seemingly happy and peaceful parents is far, far preferable to them. Guilt is removed and they can look to enjoy the time.
Divorce, separated parents and Christmas celebrations are naturally difficult to juggle, and if being alone on the day is daunting, then it is a good idea to create an alternative way to celebrate. If you are without the children, rather than focusing on negative feelings, we urge our clients to try to plan some positive events by visiting friends or catching up with family who will be happy to put them at their ease and give them positive feelings. We always suggest putting themselves first and to indulge in things they really love to do.”
Time To Reflect
Our Life Coach, Victoria James has some excellent advice on coping with the Christmas celebrations which you can read in our Holistic Lounge Blog. She comments here, “Emotional and reflective times of year are harder to process when you’re in a difficult place. Hiding or squashing feelings deep down never does anyone any good.
Try to remain present, breathe through any anxieties and take some quiet time here and there to collect yourself. If you can incorporate a short mindfulness practice ahead of time, it will absolutely help you to move through the season with increased levels of calm.
Most importantly, remember this is your Christmas too. Indulge yourself where you can by doing simple things that please you and help keep your mind in a safe, happy place.”
Helen Benussi concludes: “It is always fabulous for the children if their divorced or divorcing parents can get along, and this no doubt comes about after an immense amount of emotional effort by both parties. Parenting and co-parenting, that is structured, polite and governed by defined rules between each other is always the most effective way to cope with Christmas planning and this approach diminishes feelings of guilt that children may experience.
At Benussi & Co we understand that for any client, giving up children will be a wrench, but by resolving to make the best of Christmas through their eyes will make things easier for everyone.
Should anyone wish to discuss divorce proceedings or children’s family law matters, please call 0121 248 4001.
The team would like to wish everyone a peaceful Christmas with all our good wishes for the new year.