Our charity partner amicable, recently hosted a session on how to navigate the festive season for single parents, co-parents and blended families. The session heard from CEO Kate Daly, and Bec Jones, a Divorce Specialist at amicable. Both Kate and Bec have experience of being single parents. To hear their tips, watch the session back below.
They’ve also produced a handy blog, outlining some more top tips.
Navigating the festive season as a separated parent
Whether or not you celebrate Christmas Day, navigating the festive season and school holidays as a separated parent can be challenging.
Not only are there practical arrangements to consider, such as organising childcare, but there are also emotional factors. For many, the festive period is about being with family, which can make separated parenting more difficult, as you may not be with your child(ren) as much as you would like.
This blog explores our top tips and advice for navigating the festive season as a separated or solo parent, or if you’re in a blended family.
Tips for co-parents at Christmas:
- Plan in advance – One of our key tips for co-parenting over the Christmas holidays is to plan in advance. You can use a free parenting plan template or co-parenting app to help with this. If you’re struggling, you can use a co-parenting service, like amicable or mediation, and there are also other professionals, such as coaches, to help you make your holiday arrangements.
- Quality, not quantity – Another tip is to remember it’s the quality of time spent with your children that matters, not the quantity. Don’t think of time spent with your children as a percentage because they won’t see it that way. They will want to spend quality time with you both. Even if you can’t physically see your children, technology can be useful in staying in touch over Christmas.
- Stick to your agreements – If you’ve agreed to have the children, it’s your responsibility to make alternative arrangements or organise childcare if things change.
- Be prepared to compromise – If something unexpected and unavoidable crops up, like a family or health emergency, be prepared to compromise and approach the issue with flexibility. Communicating openly and honestly will help you to navigate tricky situations.
- Gifts – Try and agree on a budget for gifts with your co-parent. It’s difficult when parents are in different financial positions. If you can, discuss how much you would each like to spend on gifts for your children. Agreeing an amount will help you to avoid one parent feeling as though they can’t match the other. It’s not a competition; you’re a parenting team, even though you’re no longer romantically together.
- Father Christmas – If your child believes in ‘Father Christmas’, organise who will buy what from their list.
- Think about your handover – This is an important one. If you have a shared care arrangement over Christmas, think about your handover. Avoid doing a handover in a car park or by the side of the road.
- Be empathetic and understanding – Our final tip is to approach these conversations with empathy and understanding. You both love your children and want what’s best for them. Keeping your children at the forefront and centre, not in the middle, will help you make the best possible arrangements over the festive period.
If the children are with you, make sure they call their other parent and speak with them on the phone. Some parents choose to open Christmas presents on a video call to make the children feel as though the whole family are together. If you’re not with your children, try to spend the day with extended family or friends.
- Remember, you’re not alone – There are always people to talk to; friends and family are usually willing to help out. Being specific in your request gives them the confidence to help you.
- Plan festive activities – Planning festive activities and getting your children involved can give the Winter holidays structure and things for you all to look forward to.
- Look for local low-cost clubs & activities – Search for local low-cost clubs & activities to keep your children occupied during the school holidays.
- Arrange playdates or find fellow solo parents to help with childcare – If you’re working, it’s worth speaking to your employer, who will hopefully understand your need for flexibility.
- Don’t forget self-care – It’s often the first thing to go when we’re busy, but it’s important you prioritise your wellbeing so you can be the best parent possible
A blended family is when one or both separated parents start a new relationship whilst also having children, creating a blended family.
Here are some common issues and tips to help you manage the festive period:
- New relationships – If one of you has recently moved onto a new relationship, this can be an emotionally raw time for the other parent and the children. Think about timing and try not to rush this.
- Gifts – If you have an established blended family, having a conversation with all the grown-ups about setting a budget around gifts is a good idea.
- Plan Christmas Day in advance – If you leave it too late, it allows for confusion and tension to build up. Blended families require a lot of communication. You can also use co-parenting services, like amicable, to help with this.
- Embrace new traditions – If Christmas for you is all about tradition, try and embrace new and different traditions. You all may choose to do things differently but remember to prioritise all your kids.
- Don’t let a difficult ex ruin Christmas for your kids – Put yourself in your children’s shoes and try to avoid letting a tricky ex spoil Christmas for them.
How amicable can help:
Listen to this podcast episode for more tips about co-parenting during the holidays, or watch Gingerbread and amicable’s webinar on managing the Christmas holidays, where Kate Daly and Bec Jones discuss all these tips in more detail.