Christmas is meant to be “the most wonderful time of the year”, but for many Christmas brings with it a time of dread for one reason or another. Sometimes this can involve financial difficulties ,the stresses of family visiting and staying and the pressures of arranging a “perfect” Christmas.
There can be extra difficulties for families who are blended families. By this I mean families who include stepchildren, half siblings, step parents and families that may be separated for one reason or another. This can be a difficult time for the family and conflicts can arise when the additional pressure of Christmas is added to a strained environment or already challenging relationships.
A number of experts have written about ways to try to deal with these additional difficulties. It is helpful to reiterate their advice here, to remind us of ways to try to ensure the Christmas period is an enjoyable break for the whole family, wherever possible.
- Despite time pressures and the anxieties you may feel, keep communications with family members friendly and polite. Ensure the tone of communication is always respectful.
- Save arguments for calmer times. Arguments when family are visiting, when stress levels are high and there is a great deal of pressure on us can mean things are said in the heat of the moment, and often said in front of children. This can be upsetting and worrying for children
- Try not to compare your “ Christmas” with that of a separated ex, or step parent. Even comparing to the lives of friends or family can be upsetting. It is always easier to see the positives in someone else’s life than our own, and focus on the things we think we are doing wrong or badly rather than the brilliant things we are managing fantastically.
- Make gifts about thoughtfulness and time rather than cost. Entering into any kind of competition for purchasing of presents is not good for children or our relationships, and can be very expensive!
- Bear in mind that children may not feel as we always do. The pressures of Christmas can sometimes mean that we push our emotions onto our children. For example, they may be very excited about spending time with half siblings, step parents or their other parent. Allowing them to be excited and encourage that excitement can only be of benefit to them.
- Remember children can benefit in different ways from all of the relationships they have. It isn’t a competition, and how they see you deal with conflicts will help them learn these valuable life skills.
- Be flexible. Christmas puts demands on all of us that make us less likely to be able to be flexible and therefore where we can, it is best we are. The recent weather issues and travel disruption is a key example of this.
- Conserve your energy and pick your battles wisely. Accept what is possible to change, and what we have to change- find a way to work with it or work around!
- Christmas can be a very magical time for children and we as parents are custodians of the ability to make this period as enjoyable as possible for them (and for us). Make the holiday period stress free for the children. Try not to put them in the middle of any disputes. Stay child focussed. This is easy to say but hard to put in practice in amongst the demand Christmas puts upon us.
I hope you and your children have an enjoyable Christmas together and happy healthy 2018.
Claire Colbert: Mediator and Family Partner with Freeths
Claire has advised clients for over 16 years on all aspects of family law including dealing with disputes between couples and family members. Claire can help couples protecting themselves from financial claims and assist with agreeing arrangements for children.
Claire has experience in dealing with Child Maintenance Service appeals (formerly CSA). She assists parents dealing with school appeals for primary and secondary school places.
Claire is a mediator, collaborative lawyer and an accredited specialist of Resolution and Law Society Family Law Panel member. Claire was awarded Family Law Associate of the year at the Jordan's family law awards in 2013.
What separates Claire from other expert lawyers is that she works hard to resolve issues amicably without the need for a court intervention, aiming to achieve constructive legal solutions quickly and cost effectively.
DDI: 01865 781182