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A Festive Survival Guide for Separating Parents

When you think of the winter holidays, what do you think of? 

Snow? Gifts? The launch of the new John Lewis advert?

Beyond all the traditions and tinsel, for most of us, the most important thing this time of year is spending time celebrating with those closest to us.

For families who are going through separation or divorce however, it can be very difficult and emotional trying to adapt to a new way of life – particularly if relations are already strained. Deciding on how to approach this traditionally merry time can sadly be the cause of lots of unseasonal strife, particularly for children, who can feel caught in the middle.


With around one in three children in the UK likely to experience parental separation before the age of 16, unfortunately this scenario isn’t unusual. However with some measured discussions and forward planning, there is no reason that Christmas and the New Year can’t still be loving, supportive and family-oriented.

Here are some suggestions for making this difficult situation a little easier over the holidays.

Plan ahead – try to agree practical plans in advance so you all know what’s happening ahead of time.

Don’t ask the children where they would like to spend Christmas – this puts them in an unfair position as they will want to please both parents. Children will feel most secure when a plan has been worked out, by their parents. 

Work out a system which will work in the long term – many people alternate Christmas days and Boxing Days and do the same for Hogmanay and New Year’s day. 

Agree “hand-over” times and places in advance and stick to them

Don’t try to out-do each other with presents. Some parents agree a rough limit for presents to ensure that children are receiving broadly the same from each parent.  If it is possible, consider a joint gift.

Support your child’s relationship with the other parent. For example, help them to make a card or a small gift for their other parent. This shows that you understand they will want to have a loving relationship with both you. 

It is usually best to try to agree arrangements together in order to show children that even though the holidays will be different, their happiness is still the most important thing to both of you.

However, we know that sometimes this is not always possible. In such situations our experienced family law team will be able to guide you through this difficult time.  For more information, please get in touch with our senior Family Law specialist Jennifer Broatch.  

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