With only a month to go until Christmas Day, we’ve written our amicable co-parenting at Christmas checklist, to help keep things simple at one of the busiest and most emotive times of the year. We hope this checklist will help you to avoid common co-parenting pitfalls and also help you to prepare emotionally and logistically for the day.
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1. Shared-care arrangements for the festive season
If you have a parenting plan or shared care agreement, you may have already made allowances for the holidays but if you haven’t, it’s not too late. Divide the holidays based on what will work for the kids not what’s ‘fair’ or ‘equal’ for the adults. Try to minimise to-ing and fro-ing and listen to what the kids would like (if they are old enough). If the atmosphere between you is tense, don’t be pressured into doing Christmas together. Two happy separate parents are a million times better than a bad atmosphere and make alternative arrangements next year if this year doesn’t work, irrespective of whose turn it is.
2. Christmas presents and cards
Discuss with your co-parent what you plan on getting the children to avoid buying the same thing. Try to agree on what you’ll each be spending so you don’t fall into the point-scoring cycle that can sometimes occur when buying presents at Christmas. You may also need to buy presents on behalf of your children for their other parent (age dependent), so discuss this in advance to avoid any last-minute panic buying. If your school help your children to make Christmas cards for the parents, you can let the school know that you have separated, so they may need to make individual cards for you both.
It’s sometimes easy to forget your furry friends when your children are the main priority in terms of things to organise at Christmas! Decide whether your family pet/s will be staying with your children or will be with you, whilst the children are with their co-parent. Some children can be very emotionally attached to the family pet and their presence can be comforting. Thinking this through and communicating what’s going to happen in advance can reduce any upset that may be caused.
For more co-petting tips, listen to our co-petting podcast below:
4. Extended family
This may be a tricky time of year to navigate if you’re the extended family of a couple who is separating or has separated. If the children are spending the day with one of you, make sure that extended family know, and are able to talk with them on the day - whether that be a call or video or in-person (albeit briefly).
With so many activities taking place around Christmas, keep your co-parent in the loop so there are no duplicates with things like writing letters to Father Christmas and going to see Father Christmas (age-dependent). You will need to decide if and how you will explain this to them. Try to share festive activities so that one parent doesn’t do everything with the kids. You can both do things like decorating the tree and this might be a nice activity to do with your new blended family if this is your first Christmas together.
On Christmas Day:
6. If you have the kids
Have a discussion with your ex about what you plan on doing on Christmas Day. Make sure they have a chance to speak to your children. You can arrange to see them for a walk or an activity, or even just a video call. Try and both be together for big moments such as present opening (if it’s not too tense between you that is) - even if it’s just over video. You could also share a digital photo album that your co-parent can view on the day.
7. If you are doing a joint Christmas
If you’re doing a joint Christmas there are many different factors to consider. If this is your first Christmas as a separated couple, establish new traditions and model to your children that change is safe and exciting. Make sure that you aren’t giving misleading signals to your co-parent or children that there is hope for you to reconcile.
8. If you don’t have the children
This can be a very challenging day if you aren’t spending it with your kids. Have a plan to spend it with friends or your extended family so that you’re surrounded by people on Christmas Day. Ask your co-parent to organise the children to call/ video call so you can speak on the day. Take advantage of the fact you haven’t got the children - you could plan a mini-break abroad, or read that book you never have time to read or simply spend some grown-up time with your friends and family. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, have a read of our mindfulness tips blog.