Christmas can be stressful for parents and children, especially for families where mum and dad live in separate houses. Family Mediation NI (FMNI) knows that children hate to see their mum and dad fighting and children can often blame themselves for family tension.
Mediators at FMNI have seen families working positively together, and one of the best ways for parents to avoid children feeling distressed is to reassure them that whatever happens they will be okay, and that you love them no matter what.
It is easy to get caught up in the pressure of having a “perfect” family Christmas. During discussions at FMNI we have seen many different types of Christmas – some parents want to re-create the magic of their childhood Christmas, others have lots of family to include.
Mediators at FMNI will tell you that one of the most damaging phrases in the English Language is “We’ve always done it that way”. It cuts out so many options. Think instead about how to make Christmas better for you, and for your family.
Whatever way you decide to celebrate Christmas this year, remember that just because Christmas is different than before, it doesn’t have to be any less special.
No-one really likes change, Family Mediation can help to make change better. There’s risk trying something new but maybe it’s worth it if your child/children are happier and you’re less stressed too.
FMNI’s top tips are:
- Relax. Go easy on yourself, acknowledge that it is disappointing when things don’t work out as you hoped. Ultimately, children want to be happy and they want their mum and dad to be happy as well. Giving them your undivided time and the security of knowing you support and love them no matter what is really a gift that will last a lifetime.
- Be kind to yourself, and be kind to your children, they might have plans about what is important for them at Christmas as well.
- Try something different. Begin new Christmas traditions for when the children are with you, and when they are not.
- Try to make plans as far ahead as possible. That gives you time to agree arrangements without feeling time-pressured.
Here are options parents have come up with in mediation at FMNI:
- Choose a different day to celebrate Christmas
- Agree alternate Christmases (share year about)
- Celebrate together – if you can do so amicably (don’t be a damp squib)
- Split the day – each of you gets some time (but think about if this really suits your child/children -they might prefer being in one house, or may revel in travelling and visiting relatives).
Whatever you decide, remember that you don’t have to live up to any unrealistic expectations society places on Christmas being “perfect”. Free yourself from that pressure and give the gift of your time and your reassurance to your child instead.
If you need some more help in communicating better as a family in 2020 why not make an appointment with FMNI in 2020. Separated parents may access the HSCB funded service if not in the Court system.