It is that time of year for separated parents to remind themselves to act with empathy and sharpen their compromise skills to protect their children during the lead-up to the Christmas break.
It goes without saying that the Christmas season is often the most stressful time of year for separated parents navigating through shared custody. It can be an emotional holiday break, as each parent does their best to make the most of arrangements that are usually not their ideal preference.
Making the transition to being respectful co-parents who are no longer a couple can be extremely challenging, particularly as life moves on and new romantic relationships are formed. The impact these changes can have on family dynamics at Christmas can be significant.
As hard as it may be, parents should consider the flow on effect conflict can have on their children, and to remember that their kids look to them as their role model.
There are so many families in Australia navigating through similar shared custody issues, with one million Australian children living apart from one of their biological parents (ABS).
Here is a list of the five most common shared custody arguments that arise during the Christmas season - and how to help avoid them!
Sadly, it isnít uncommon for separated or divorced parents to compete with each other when it comes to buying Christmas gifts for the kids. Parents can help avoid conflicts over gifts by making an effort to speak about their plans in advance and showing sensitivity where there is a difference in income levels between them. Some parents take the mature approach of agreeing on budgets and numbers of gifts to avoid any awkwardness.
It is best to establish dietary and household ground rules for the Christmas season with your co-parent early to avoid any conflict over the holidays. Complaints around excessive sugar consumption and late bedtimes are common, which can result in children being dropped at their other parentsí house exhausted and grumpy. Acting with common sense and sensitivity towards your co-parent as well as honouring the agreements made should help prevent any of these issues arising.
It can be very distressing for a parent when their child is dropped off late over the Christmas period as this can result in the child missing a carefully prepared meal, family visitors or the unwrapping of gifts or other important family traditions. Keeping to agreed timelines where possible should be a priority to nurture goodwill between co-parents.
Problems arise where one parent refuses to be flexible when planning the schedule for Christmas. An example of this is where one parent wants to wake up with the children on Christmas morning every year instead of agreeing to have the kids Christmas Day one year and Boxing Day the next. It is the children that suffer the most when parents kick their heels in over schedules. It is always best to take a longer-term view on what will be best for both family units.
Complicated schedules and long drives between locations can result in grumpy parents and children. It is best to keep arrangements as simple as possible and avoid late night drop offs which can be particularly exhausting. If extended family want to see the kids and are unable to come to you, try and schedule a visit during the days leading up to or following Christmas day to keep your days relatively clear to relax.
Lorrie Brook is the creator of www.ourchildren.com.au, Australiaís first website offering software which helps parents manage shared custody peacefully and protects their kids from being used as messengers
This article contains only general information, and may not apply to your situation. You should obtain information about your situation from an experienced qualified professional.
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