“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”. That’s how the song goes and oh, how I do love a Christmas song. The cheesier the better in my opinion. But for some families who have gone through a separation, Christmas and the run up to the festive season is anything but wonderful. In fact, it is incredibly stressful and upsetting. Whether it’s because there are differing views on arrangements, bad feelings between parents or it’s not your turn to have the children this year, Christmas joy can seem quite hard to find. Add in a global pandemic and all the uncertainty and worry that comes along with that and, well, no-one is going to blame you if you want to just hide under that duvet until it is all over. But of course, that’s not possible. There have been things to do, presents to buy and wrap and endless questions about whether Father Christmas can actually travel around the world without going into quarantine to answer.
So here is my take on things.
- Try thinking about arrangements well in advance. I hear you – that’s all well and good, Emma, but with Government restrictions changing all the time, is this possible? This year has been harder than normal and being flexible has probably been the name of the game, but that doesn’t mean next year has to be. Try to avoid thinking about what might happen and have those tricky conversations with the other parent so you can deal with any issues head on. The children will ultimately benefit when they know, as much as it’s possible anyway, that they are going to spend time with you both and neither of you are going to be left out. Over this Christmas period, either make a mental note or jot something down about what arrangements worked for the kids and what didn’t. Then, when the dust has settled, and well in advance of next year’s festivities, start to discuss with the other parent how you feel things would be best for the kids next Christmas. Having those discussions early could be the key to a less pressurised situation.
- So, things this year might be different. But different can be good too. Start some new traditions with the children and take the pressure of yourself to keep everything the same. If the children are not with you this year, make sure you have a proper celebration with them – they will enjoy having two special days, but also do something for you. Be with friends or family or do something that makes you happy. Or spend time alone. With many people having managed a whole host of extra things this year (including home schooling) maybe you could do with a bit of time alone to recharge and think about how thing have been for you.
- Taking time to reflect is important. It’s common to feel hopeful and make resolutions going into the new year and 2021 cannot come soon enough for many. If you can, take some time for yourself over the holidays to reflect on what you have achieved in the last year and the challenges you and your family have faced. If you want things to be different, focus on how you can get there and the positive steps you can take.
Despite my initial worry, I have really enjoyed writing this series of blogs and, if you have stuck with me and read them all, I thank you. The only thing left to say – and no-one says it better than my fellow countryman Shakin’ Stevens in possibly the best and cheesiest (I did warn you!) Christmas song ever – “Merry Christmas Everyone”.