Experts have shared top Christmas tips for divorced and separated parents whose children will be spending Christmas day with their ex-partners. They recommend that parents need to put on a brave face for the sake of the children but “not to be afraid to cry on their own – or enjoy catching up on some TV”. There are seven tips they recommend – I agree with most of them in principal but not the watch TV bit – DON’T WATCH TV – GET OUT AND DO SOMETHING. MAKE SURE YOU’RE WITH FRIENDS OR OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS. GO SOMEWHERE. GET OUT OF YOUR HOUSE. MAYBE ABROAD. Yes, it’s good to learn to be on your own, but it’s too hard at Christmas time and you will feel miserable if you’re on your own.
So here are my own, adapted Top Tips for Christmas:-
1. We have always managed to share the children for Christmas Day. One year we have the kids on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day morning for stockings and Bucks Fizz and then they leave at lunchtime. The next year we have them from lunchtime onwards. It works for all and makes it far less painful all round.
2. Start new traditions – try and look at Christmas from a different perspective – have a European Christmas and do a big family meal on Christmas Eve if you don’t have them on Christmas Day. Do something special with them that is a little bit different – go to the theatre or to friends or have a party in the lead up to make it fun and feel like family time so that the wrench is not so great.
3. Make sure you have plans for the day – spend it either with friends or family or even plan to go away somewhere so that you are not alone and moping. I know it sounds purile, but time really does help – we have been doing separate Christmases for nearly ten years now and it has become far more the norm – even if still painful here and there.
4. Trying to see it from the children’s perspective does help – they have to up sticks and leave halfway through the day – but then again they get double the presents, so not too bad then…
5. Regarding the presents – try not to do a competitive thing – it’s not helpful longterm for the kids to be overwhelmed with gifts from each parent – if you can – discuss what you are going to get them so that you don’t double up or clash in any way.
6. Try and look at the vast gloomy space ahead of you as a positive in some way – I completely know how painful it is but try and find a way to see it differently – if you are feeling really bad then the best thing is to go and help out somewhere like Crisis with serving Christmas lunch for the homeless – that should make you feel very lucky for all that you still have in your life.
7. Remember it’s just a day and there are a great many people in the world that struggle with it for whatever reason. Sometimes trying to live up to the image of the nuclear family happy Christmas is too much to bear. Just try and get that image out of your head and look at the positives.
8. If you are struggling make sure you involve friends. You can feel like an outsider if you let that happen, but instead, embrace the fact that “dysfunctional is the new functional” and invite a whole bunch of friends and family round for Christmas day.
9. Drink loads (of alcohol)
10. If you’re struggling – call me. I’ll see what I can do and you can join in whatever I’m doing. Maybe we all need to get together next year? Somewhere hot??
Good luck, take a deep breath and make sure you’re kids are as happy as they can be not being with you. The worst thing for them is if they think you are going to be on your own. So make sure you won’t be watching Mary Poppins on your own – personally I couldn’t think of anything worse.