Santa Clause is coming to town: Where will the children spend Christmas this year?
Everyone loves Christmas - it's a time to spend with your nearest and dearest and be merry. However, it can also be a time of stress and anxiety as parents attempt to negotiate who the children will spend Christmas with.
It is our advice that parents should consider the following when negotiating where the children should spend Christmas this year:
- Who will the children spend Christmas with? Who did they spend it with last year?
- Will they spend the whole of Christmas Day with the other parent? If not, then from what time to what time? What is the travelling distance between each place? Is it worth spending half Christmas Day with one parent if there is going to be two hours plus of travel involved to get to the other parents' house?
- Does the other parent have family visiting for Christmas who do not regularly visit?
- Is the other parent spiritual/religious in terms of tradition, for example, attending Church service?
- What arrangements have been put in place for the Christmas school holiday period? Could one of the parents celebrate Christmas on another day?
- Could the parent not spending Christmas with the children, celebrate New Year's Eve with them instead?
It can be difficult for a parent to allow the children to spend the entire day or some of the day with the other parent for Christmas. However, parents should keep in mind that it is not about you or the other parent, it is about the children. Would you like to travel for a period of time on Christmas day when instead, you could be socialising with family and friends?
We recommend that parents not discuss who the children will spend Christmas with in the presence or hearing of the children. By doing so, the children may feel a sense of guilt when they spend Christmas with one parent and not the other. This may lead to the child becoming anxious around Christmas time each year. In the long term, it may lead to the child feeling negatively about this special time of the year and refusing to celebrate it all.
Recently, a child psychologist gave us something to think about: most people start celebrating Christmas (attending Christmas functions etc) from early or mid-December. So if you're not religious, then why is it so important that the children spend time with you on 25 December? What about Christmas Eve or Boxing Day?
If parents are finding it difficult to reach an agreement, they may contact Relationships Australia to facilitate a Family Dispute Resolution conference (mediation) that is free of charge. Alternatively, parents may arrange a private mediation.
And finally, we recommend that you start planning and talking to the other parent as soon as possible so that the lead up to Christmas is not ruined by arguments and uncertainty.