07 Dec Top tips for arranging Christmas Contact
Christmas is fast approaching and as most parents will know it can be a very busy time of year. For separated parents, Christmas can become particularly fraught, especially if both parents to want to see the children on Christmas day and can’t agree on the arrangements.
However, unless contact has already been pre-agreed in a formal separation agreement or through a Court Order, it will be up to the parents to agree how contact should be arranged themselves – often on a year-to-year basis.
But what happens when parents can’t agree?
There are a few options when it comes to trying to organise how to share time with the children over the festive period, such as;
- If you can, try speaking directly to your ex-partner. Making sure you give plenty of time and notice about what you are looking for. It can be helpful to give details on travel and times too; so that you each know the other’s plans.
- Mediation is another way in which parents can discuss contact with the help of a trained mediator. Relationships Scotland’s website has more on this here https://www.relationships-scotland.org.uk/family-mediation. One thing to note is that there can be waiting lists for these sessions and this can sometimes be up to 4 weeks so, if you think this would be needed it’s best to get in touch with them as soon as possible.
- Ultimately, if you have exhausted these options then Court is an option here but one that should be seen as a last resort. In this situation the court could make an order – after hearing from both parties – about how contact should take place over Christmas. However this is not a quick and easy option and can end up costly for both parents. It can also create additional stress and anxiety during an already difficult time.
- Christmas should be about the children. This is the most important take away. It perhaps goes without saying here that what is best for the children should be at the heart of any conversation around Christmas contact. This is not about point-scoring for the parents.
- Keep it positive! Think carefully about how you present any agreed plans to the children. Rather than saying “you have to go to your Dad’s on Boxing Day” try to frame it in positive terms, for example by saying “isn’t it great you get to have two Christmas Days?!” If you remain positive, the children should feed off that.
- Discuss alternating the arrangements each year. So if the children spent one Christmas Eve-Christmas Day with Mum, can that be swapped the following year?
- Think about travelling, do you live close to your ex-partner? Where do you plan to spend Christmas? Is there scope for Christmas Day to be shared?
- Does either parent work shifts? It is important to be mindful of this as this may limit one parent’s availability.
- Most importantly, try to think practically and honestly about where the children will want to be and how they want to spend Christmas.