Now is time to talk about Christ­mas for sep­a­rated par­ents

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health Lifestyle - Padraig O’Mo­rain Padraig O’Mo­rain is ac­cred­ited by the Ir­ish As­so­ci­a­tion for Coun­selling and Psy­chother­apy.

It’s the time of year when we play a los­ing bat­tle against the im­mi­nent ar­rival of Christ­mas – but if you’re a sep­a­rated par­ent, you have to think about Christ­mas whether you like it or not.

Sep­a­rated par­ents need to start work­ing out as early as they can what ar­range­ments will be made for their in­volve­ment with the children at Christ­mas. The doorstep on Christ­mas Eve is nei­ther the place nor the time for this dis­cus­sion.

I know it’s not al­ways the case, but I’m go­ing to as­sume in this ar­ti­cle that the par­ent liv­ing away from the fam­ily home is a man.

Not all sep­a­rated par­ents get to see their kids on Christ­mas Day. In­stead of hav­ing a bat­tle royal about this, it might be bet­ter for the children’s peace of mind to agree an­other day as close as pos­si­ble to the day it­self.

If you can­not or don’t wish to see the children in the fam­ily home can you see them in your own par­ents’ home? You should prob­a­bly in­volve grand­par­ents any­way be­cause they are such a ma­jor part of a child’s life and they can help to cre­ate a real Christ­mas at­mos­phere for you and the children.

If the children are go­ing to stay overnight with you, be sen­si­tive to whether that is a night on which they might have an im­por­tant (to them) party or other event to at­tend. Per­haps you can can be the taxi.


What about Christ­mas Day it­self?

If you live nearby, it might be fea­si­ble for them to call to you for a while. Would it be fea­si­ble for you to be pre­sent for some part of the day in their own home?

I ac­knowl­edge that this could be emo­tion­ally dif­fi­cult in the early stages of the sep­a­ra­tion, es­pe­cially if the mother has an­other part­ner in the home.

Even if you de­test the new part­ner and even if you’re right to do so, this might be the time of year to bury the hatchet, metaphor­i­cally, for a few days. The children are prob­a­bly go­ing to run into that per­son over the Christ­mas and the no­tion that “my children will never be in the pres­ence of that (fill in your own ex­ple­tive)” is sim­ply un­re­al­is­tic.

Presents can be a source of angst for sep­a­rated par­ents. It’s help­ful to know what the other par­ent is buy­ing the kids so you don’t end up buy­ing the same thing.

More­over if the par­ent who’s liv­ing with the kids has al­ready told them they’re not get­ting a new phone for Christ­mas, it’s prob­a­bly best not to un­der­mine her by show­ing up with an iPhone XS Max for each of them.

If the new part­ner’s children are also in the home, you might con­sider get­ting some­thing for them too when buy­ing for your own kids.

Now, some cus­to­dial par­ents are im­pos­si­ble and bloody-minded and will deny ac­cess to the liv­ing-apart par­ent, re­gard­less of what’s been agreed pre­vi­ously – some­times com­ing up with ex­cuses at the last minute.

In that case it might be more im­por­tant to the children that you grit your teeth and do what you can to main­tain some sort of har­mony over this pe­riod than that you fight it out im­me­di­ately.

Re­mem­ber also that, sooner than you think, the children will be of an age and tem­per­a­ment to make up their own minds about see­ing you re­gard­less of the other par­ent’s ob­jec­tions.

Most of the moth­ers I have come across are keen that their children should have a good re­la­tion­ship with their fa­ther, even if the adults de­test each other

If send­ing a pre­sent and a card is the most you can do, then do that much at least.

And take care of your emo­tional health by not dwelling over and over and over and the fact that you won’t be see­ing the kids.

For most par­ents who are sep­a­rated, Christ­mas ar­range­ments can be worked out fairly eas­ily. Most of the moth­ers I have come across are keen that their children should have a good re­la­tion­ship with their fa­ther, even if the adults heartily de­test each other.

What­ever your sit­u­a­tion, now is the time to start talk­ing about Christ­mas ei­ther di­rectly or though a mu­tual friend whom both of you trust.

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