Families and the festive season

Christmas is supposed to be a time for family, happiness and giving, with a bit of relaxation and celebration thrown in for good measure.

For many, however, the reality of Christmas is far removed from the festive idyll. Family arguments at this time of year frequently arise from clashes in personality or values, perceived favouritism or the inability to agree what to do.

According to Relate 68% of people who responded to their survey expected to row over the Christmas holidays, with 39% citing Christmas Day as the most likely time to have a “bust-up”.

The expectations we put on ourselves and our families at Christmas, as we try to live up to the media images of large, extended families having a lovely time, can create additional pressure and bring existing strain to a head.

This can be further compounded if you have recently separated or divorced.

To help cope with your first Christmas as a separated family or indeed further down the line:

  • Think ahead and be realistic

Separated couples should start planning Christmas childcare arrangements early to avoid disputes later. Many families manage to establish arrangements that work well for them, often involving alternating where children spend Christmas Day. For those families who are newly separated this can be a testing time whilst new routines are established. Let your children express an opinion, but don’t make them choose. Take responsibility for the decisions that you as an adult should be making on their behalf. With sensitivity and forethought, the creation of workable arrangements even when your family is not together is achievable.

  • Compromise

For every family, a large amount of acceptance and compromise at this time of year goes a long way! If you are a separated parent try and remember that you are both still parents, and focus on putting your children’s needs first. Aim to share both the pleasure and the responsibility, and try to think of the arrangements that you are making for Christmas from the children’s perspectives. Practical arrangements such as co-ordinating Christmas presents can go a long way to avoid competition between separated parents and avoid unnecessary upsets.

We also recognise that the festive season can exacerbate issues that have been bubbling away under the surface of any marriage or civil partnership. Please do not hesitate to contact me on a confidential basis should you wish to discuss or seek advice on any family law matters.

On the other hand, if Christmas is the catalyst for an engagement, you may wish to consider a pre-nuptial agreement. We are similarly well-placed to advise on these.


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