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Tips to help families through Christmas

This opinion piece is over 5 years old

Ian Maxwell gives tips on how separated parents can help embrace Christmas for the benefit of their children

Christmas can be the loneliest time of the year for divorced or separated parents. It is the time they most want to see their children but it may not be their turn to have them for Christmas Day. For many, mainly non resident fathers and their extended family, it is never their turn.

Families Need Fathers Scotland is recommending eight survival tips suggested by attendees at monthly group meetings. They are meant for fathers – and non-resident mothers – as well as grandparents, aunts and uncles whose contact has been lost or reduced when the parents separated.

We have calls and emails every day at this time of year from non-resident parents in great distress because arrangements to see their kids at some point over Christmas have broken down or abruptly changed or have simply been refused. We appeal to both separated parents to take the opportunity presented by the spirit of Christmas to set aside their personal issues for the benefit of their children. If they do that it could be the platform for greater goodwill in the New Year.

Ian Maxwell
Ian Maxwell

Maree Todd, Scottish Government minister for Children and Young People, has welcomed the tips.

She said: “For separated parents Christmas can be a very challenging time when it comes to arranging and agreeing contact. Our National Parenting Strategy recognises the importance of ensuring parents get the support they need to form and develop healthy positive bonds with their children.

“I am delighted that Families Need Fathers Scotland, who worked with us on the development and implementation of the National Parenting Strategy, have created this useful and practical resource for parents. Building healthy relationships at Christmas will last a lifetime – that’s much more important than buying things”

So have a look at our survival tips, which are listed below.

The Survival Tips

1. Remember to put the kids first. Even though you are missing them don’t put your distress ahead of their enjoyment. Encourage them to look forward to the next time they’re with you.
2. Try and negotiate with your former partner at least a phone call with your children on Christmas Day so they know you are thinking about them and sharing their excitement.
3. Try and agree with your former partner that it’s fair for the children to have Christmas Day with each of you on alternate years.
4. If you do have them this year don’t go overboard on arrangements. Think ahead about what they’ll enjoy rather than what’s expensive. It’s time together that counts in the long run.
5. Don’t compete on presents with your former partner. Outspending will create friction especially if money is short for both of you. When you have limited time with your children it’s often tempting to try and compensate by extravagant gestures. Don’t. Good cheer now may pay off in the New Year.
6. Keep in mind that your children will remember the time they have with you. Don’t worry that they don’t give you a second thought when they’re not with you. That’s what kids are like.

7. If you don’t have any contact with your kids at all, sit down and write them a letter. Even if you never send it it’ll be your time with them this year.
8. Don’t let yourself get miserable or lonely at home. Make sure you see friends or think about volunteering with some of the organisations that look after others at Christmas.

Ian Maxwell is national manager of Families Need Fathers Scotland