7 Tips to help you make arrangements for children at Christmas

17/11/2016

At Essex Mediation we know that Christmas is not always a happy time for everyone. Many parents and grandparents find that they are unable to enjoy the festive season with the children they love and this can be truly heart breaking.

In the run up to Christmas we see a large uplift in cases as separated or separating parents try to make contact arrangements for their children over the Christmas holidays. This is a difficult and emotionally stressful task so here are a few tips we hope will help.

  1. See things through the eyes of the children – Christmas is a magical time of year for children, they want to enjoy all the festivities that school and home can offer and they want you to enjoy them too. They don’t want to see the people they love arguing. We understand that this isn’t easy but remember children want to be happy and to have fun, naturally they want to share that with the important people in their lives.
  2. Be realistic – if you and your ex-partner, or the wider family have been unable to agree contact arrangements with the children throughout the year, it is unlikely that arranging Christmas contact will be easy. This does not mean it will be impossible, but you need to start from a reasonable position. Asking for more contact than is realistic may lead to further arguments. Remember Christmas doesn’t just have be one day.
  3. Make arrangements for Christmas as soon as you can and stick to them! If you can agree early what the arrangements will be, this will make a huge difference for everyone concerned especially your children. The Mediation process is quicker than litigation but you do need to allow time to mediate. If you can’t come to an agreement then an application would need to be made to the Court. This can and does take months! Applications made in November and December are unlikely to be heard until the New Year.
  4. Don’t let a stranger make the decision for you –Who knows your children better than you? No body, so don’t let a complete stranger make decisions about your children. This is what a judge will do, the courts make decisions based upon the evidence that is presented before them, not knowledge of the children themselves. Mediators don’t make decisions for you, they let you reach your own agreements. You are in control of what happens. They facilitate the negotiations but they remain impartial throughout.
  5. Safety first – It is a sad but undeniable truth that some separated parents are not able to spend time with their children or have their contact time restricted because of safety concerns. Perhaps there has been domestic violence or abusive behaviour during the relationship and this has led to access to the child/children being withheld. Whatever the reasons, it is important to remember that the risk of harm does not diminish simply because it is Christmas. Although it is both admirable and understandable to want to give those you care about want they want at this time of year you must remember safety first. Do not put yourself or your child in a possibly unsafe situation.
  6. Try family mediation – I know we are bound to say this, but the best arrangements for children are the ones you make together. If you can communicate well and have confidence that the agreements you reach will be stuck to, then this is the best outcome for you all. If you both accept that there is an issue and you are both willing to try and resolve it then Mediation can help you.
  7. Christmas contact ideas – Try to enter all conversations regarding Christmas access with an open mind. There are many reasonable arrangements you could reach for children over the festive period. Could Christmas Day be shared? Boxing Day is a great day too, perhaps you could alternate? Could the children spend Christmas with one family one year and with another the next?  Make use of other family members, grandparents, aunts and uncles may be able to transport children between separated parents if communication remains difficult. Remember there are lots of options and all of them could be possible.

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