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Christmas Challenges for Separated Families

By Mary Kay Hafer (Adapted from

Facing the prospect of Christmas without your children or having an argument with your ex-spouse over visitation issues, can add to the stress of Christmas time. By planning and communicating, Christmas can be a good one this year.

The break-up of a family can be traumatic for both you and your children, and research shows that safe, continued, contact between the child and the family members who are no longer living with them is important to our children’s well-being.

Try to negotiate the time spent with your children over Christmas and involve your children in those plans. It’s not just what’s convenient for you – your children need to be happy with the arrangements too.

Parentline Plus top tips

  • Put the kids first. Christmas is a time for children to enjoy themselves and have fun, not feel torn between their family members. Focusing on your child will make you feel better too.

  • Planning and good communication are the key to the success of Christmas. Children will feel happier if they know what is going to happen in advance.
  • Take a fair approach over Christmas with your ex-spouse and his/her family. Children need continuing contact with grandparents, aunts and uncles from both sides of the family. Turn taking may have to take place.
  • If you aren’t spending Christmas day with your children, suggest having your own special day on a different date, so that you get to do all the things you would normally do on the day.
  • If you can, talk to your ex-spouse about what you are buying so you don’t end up with a disappointed child and two frustrated parents who have bought duplicate presents. You may even want to agree on a set budget so you avoid competing with your ex-spouse.
  • Make the time special and try and make the most of the situation. Having the time with the children is important for both parents and can also give you each time off to see friends and recharge your batteries.
  • Remember as your kids get older they will want to be involved in the planning and may want time to do their own thing as well.
  • If you are a resident parent make sure your ex-spouse knows about and has the opportunity to go to your child’s plays, music concerts, events at school, etc. Competition between parents to attend events does not benefit the child.
  • If you are used to having your ex-spouse do all the shopping and feel overwhelmed and don’t know what to do, talk to your him/her and ask if he/she will share the kids’ wish list or seek out the help of a grandparent who may have some ideas.

Parents struggling with issues this Christmas can call Parentline at 808- 800- 2222, or contact the e-mail support team on parentsupport(at) or visit the website for more support.

12 County Route 47
Parishville, NY 13672
Phone: 315-265-4642
Fax: 315-268-1309

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