The festive season can be a hard time for parents who are not living with their children. Feelings of jealousy, loneliness, isolation, anger and resentfulness can often overshadow what should be a time of festivity.
Tips on how to manage the situation is to start the conversation with your child’s other parent as early in the year as possible. Give yourself time to make arrangements about which days/times each parent has with the children or to come to terms with a less than ideal situation. You could suggest alternating years, or turning Christmas Eve into a special celebratory time.
Try to establish a ‘long-term deal’ with your ex-partner that will work for everyone and become a new routine. Remember the grandparents. Often a split in the family affects them too and they may also be upset at not seeing the grandchildren.
The time that you do have with your children over the festive season should be special. Don’t try to ‘outdo’ the other parent. This will often cause stress in your child and in you as you won’t be able to live up to expectations year on year.
Hard as it is to actually take this to heart – please remember that there is not a competition over presents. No matter how much money you have – don’t turn a gift for your child into a competition with your ex. Your priorities must be creating values and a sense of belonging in your child and not shining your light so bright that you try to dim the other parent. Talk to your ex and agree on who is getting what for the children to avoid duplications and disappointments. Try to remember it is not about the parents or their amicability or discord, it is about creating a memory and cherished time for your children.
If you are not going to be able to see your children on Christmas Day and you will be alone, try and make arrangements to meet up with friends or someone else in the same situation. Take the initiative and invite your neighbours or others around for lunch.
If your ex is unreliable or doesn’t make any effort to see the children at this time of the year, try not to criticise him/her in front of the children no matter how angry you are. Your children may well be feeling the same way but they will also still love that parent, so these conflicting emotions can cause them a lot of distress and confusion. Try and keep them moving forward focusing on the here and now and staying positive.
No matter which side of the fence you are on – keep your focus on what this experience is like for your children. They are your priority and you need to hold your emotions in check for them.
Remember, Christmas and the festive season is a time of thinking of others, being kind and caring and appreciating what you have to be thankful for.