If you are co-parenting this Christmas, you can be forgiven for feeling anxious and apprehensive. Sharing the care of your children can be hard, but at Christmas, harder still.
Questions you could be asking yourself include:
- Who will have the children, and when?
- What will happen to our usual family Christmas?
- How will we do presents and stockings?
- Can I even afford Christmas this year?
- Will my ex and I still be on talking terms by the end of the festive season?
We will answer all these questions for you in this article, as well as providing ideas and tips to make Christmas run smoothly and peacefully.
1. PLAN EARLY FOR CHRISTMAS
As a co-parent you will be no stranger to planning, and Christmas is the key time to home in on your strategic skills.
The very best piece of advice we can provide here is to start early. And by early, we mean several months early.
Depending on the relationship you have with your ex-partner, planning for Christmas could be difficult. It is normal for both parents to be passionate about what happens during the festive period, especially Christmas Day. For this reason, open the conversation early so you have plenty of time to mull it over and find a solution that works for everyone in the family.
2. INCLUDE CHRISTMAS IN YOUR PARENTING PLAN
The easiest way to prepare for Christmas as a co-parent is to have a parenting plan or parenting orders which outline the arrangements you and your ex-partner have previously agreed to.
A standard agreement for Christmas would be to alternate times spent with the children over the holidays, with a focus on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Parenting plans can be created between ex-couples, or with support from a mediator or solicitor. Usually they are put together from a place of calm while both parents are viewing the bigger picture of their children’s upbringing.
Having a ready-made parenting plan to refer to and abide by can really help to smooth the way for a peaceful Christmas.
Note: Be prepared for exceptional circumstances around Christmas and ready to adapt your arrangements if needed. For example, state or international border closures or work commitments may force you to waiver from previously made plans.
3. GET IT IN WRITING
If you are not utilising parenting plans to organise Christmas, it is really important to ensure you have written confirmation between you and your ex-parent outlining your agreements.
This sounds very formal, but it can be as simple as:
- A note in your communication book
- A text
- An email
- Notes on a shared calendar app
It is human nature to forget or confuse plans occasionally. A written confirmation could literally save the day should arrangements nose-dive at any point.
4. CREATE A BUDGET (AND STICK TO IT)
Mr Miles Larbey, Senior Executive Leader for Financial Literacy at ASIC, says:
“Christmas is often a busy time of the year arranging gifts, food and decorations, let alone working out how you are going to pay for it all.”
True words. Especially for single parents.
The key to getting your festive finances on track is, once again … to plan early.
Start with a simple budget so you know what you have to spend and break it down into areas such as:
- Gifts for each child
- Gifts for family members and friends
- Gifts for teachers and childcare workers
- Food and drink
Work out how much you can spend on each and then make sure you stick to it. You might need/want to include other costs such as travel, charity and/or Christmas childcare.
Getting your finances right this Christmas will alleviate stress and prevent you starting the new year with a Christmas hangover debt.
5. SHARE GIFT IDEAS
As a co-parent, one of the biggest challenges at Christmas is buying gifts for your children.
Not only is it a money issue but knowing who is buying what for which child can get complicated. And no child wants the disappointment of receiving the same gift from both parents because they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) communicate.
Instead, try to plan what you will get your children with your ex-partner. If your relationship cannot withstand this kind of communication, simply send them a message notifying them of what you are buying.
Working together as co-parents when buying and giving gifts can save money for both partners as you pool together for larger items.
Note: On the topic of gifts, Christmas can be pivotal time for co-parents. Make sure you get your ex-partner a gift from your children and even something small from you. Remember, this is a time of peace and goodwill to all.
6. MAKE CHRISTMAS DIFFERENT (IN A GOOD WAY)
As a single parent family, your Christmases are going to be different to what they were when you were partnered. For many, this causes upset and worry because of the inability to recreate past Christmases.
Our advice is to change your thinking around this and see it as an opportunity to create even better Christmases for you and your children.
Have a think about new traditions you can start in your single parent household that everyone will love. It is never too late to bring new festive ideas into the mix. So long as it works for your family, it will be perfect.
7. ENJOY “YOUR” CHRISTMAS TOO!
Christmas is all about the kids. Right?
Christmas is a family occasion to be enjoyed by everyone. For many single parents, Christmas allows a break from work and some time to relax and enjoy time with the kids.
Don’t encumber yourself with complex Christmas plans that put you under unnecessary pressure. It is a fact that your children would rather have a happy parent than a stressed parent.
It might be that you are kid-free for part of Christmas. If so, make the most of it. Hit a friend’s house and party, sign up for some charity work or Netflix and chill with a mountain of Christmas treats.
Co-parenting at Christmas can be fun too. Take the time to enjoy it.