For families that have changed throughout 2022, Christmas will be filled with heightened emotion and pain. Also, perhaps feelings of relief, and then guilt for the feeling of relief.
Each year, at this time, the team and I meet parents who due to the emotional pain and anger of the change, put their needs ahead of their children’s needs. This. In the main is not intentional. These feelings are understandable, yet not desirable or helpful.
As many families have lost loved ones due to death, people would be supported by extended family and friends. In divorce and relationship breakdown (which is a loss), society expects parents (ex-partners) to communicate amicably. Even fully communicative relationships struggle at Christmas with schedules around going to see Santa and what Santa will bring. School plays and concerts. Children will worry about where Santa will go on Christmas Eve. What if Santa does not know where to go? Children will want to know if both parents will stay in the same house on Christmas Eve night, to be sure Santa knows where to go. Children will want to be at the house to play with the toys Santa brings on Christmas Eve night. Is it right/fair to ask them to collect all the belongings to go to another house, and what happens if the gifts are not allowed travel with them? Does that mean Santa calls to the two houses? What happens if Santa doesn’t call to both houses? Do the children have grandparents and extended family from both sides that usually call to say hello on Christmas morning- will that still happen? If they do call, is it going to be strained, awkward, and difficult? How will the children respond to that? How will parents respond to this? Will there be alcohol? Children will think about who will sit where at Christmas dinner. Will breakfast be at one house, dinner somewhere else, supper at grandparents? Have the parents thought about discussing the options with the children or will children be moved from house to house to meet family and extended family? Who stays where Christmas Day night? Where will children go if parents and extended family begin to argue? When we are emotional and in pain, blaming outward is the easiest thing to do. None of us want to feel responsibility (or partial responsibility) for change, particularly negative change.
If as parents we are not in the emotional, psychological, or in some cases physical safe space to discuss calmly and rationally (the following)
- How to tell the children that their relationship and living arrangements are changing,
- How to effectively manage the children’s responses to all of the following questions in a way that is age-appropriate, honest (in so far as appropriate) and as respectful (as possible) in the co-parenting relationship
- Ask the children what they would like to happen for the holiday season. *Please note* That asking your child’s view does not necessarily mean that the “wishes” will be granted, but their voices will be heard. This is your child’s right as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- Time: The night or week before Christmas is not the ideal time to be dealing with all of this pain, responsibility, and emotion. Christmas is an emotive time. TV tells us that we all live in snow-covered houses, with twinkling lights, warm fires, gifts under the trees, and everyone hugging. This is not real life. This is “pretend life” in the main.
Time and time again, the team and I have parents/grandparents calling us on Christmas week pleading for help. There is very little time left to support you as parents and to support your children.
There is a reason I do the work I do, that is because 20 years ago, I wish I had a team (such as Conflict Clarity) to help me navigate these pitfalls. At that point, I did not know mediation existed.
For further information the book “That’s Not My Ending!” is available here https://www.conflictclarity.ie/
For consultation calls, contact email@example.com . The team and I will see what can be done before Christmas.
Please be gentle with yourselves and each other.