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Staying focused on what’s important over the festive season

“Children don’t need more things.  The best toys a child can have is a parent who gets on the floor and plays with them” Bruce Perry

The festive season can be a particularly difficult time for children and parents living in separate households. Children often feel pressured to please both parents and this can lead them to have increased levels of anxiety.

However, there are things you can do to make the holiday season run smoothly, ensuring that both you and your children get the opportunity to enjoy meaningful time together.

Get the festive plans clear

This is often not easy for parents in conflict. Clarity about the details is one of the best ways to contain the conflict and provides the best opportunity for everyone to enjoy their separate festive celebrations. Negotiating for such significant events can take time , so if you have been unable to change your parenting arrangements this year, you can plan be more prepared next year. Alternatively a mutually trusted family member or friend might be able to assist with communication around the arrangements for your children.

Explain your plans to your children. Make sure they know when and where they will see each parent.. The more prepared children are, the safer and more relaxed they will feel.

What if you can’t be together on Christmas Day?

If your parenting arrangements mean that you will not see your children on Christmas Day, choosing another day to celebrate with your children can be just as fun and exciting. Creating your own rituals and celebrations as a family unit, create positive memories and help make it special for children.

Create lasting memories with your children

Good times and loving experiences are enduring, this is what we remember. Children thrive in environments of genuine care and affection. Remember that it’s not the toys that children will remember, it’s the love! So, focus on creating happy memories with your children and avoid worrying about keeping up with the Jones’s.

Respect cultural norms

For some people the holiday season is a deeply religious or culturally significant time. Remember to respect any cultural or religious traditions that might impact on when you see your children. For example, if the other parent celebrates on Christmas Eve, respect their cultural norm and suggest a different time for you to see your children. Focusing on what is best for your children will help you to enjoy the time.

Understand the legality of arrangements

Formal agreements and intervention orders are legally binding, so it is important that you respect them. Breaching these orders can have legal consequences, not to mention having a negative impact on your children. Make sure you think about your children first. While it may be tempting to spend an extra day with them, imagine how they’re going to feel if they don’t get to see the other parent at Christmas time.

Look after yourself

If you are spending Christmas or the holiday season without your children, make sure that you look after yourself. It’s important that you surround yourself with friends or family, or engage in activities that you enjoy. There is a range of community groups who hold ‘open-door’ special events during this time.

Know there is support if you need it

Many support and legal services are closed over the holiday period, so make sure you’re aware of where you can go for advice or support should you need it. SA Community has a list of services available over the festive season, and in a crisis situation, and remember that you can always phone Crisis Care on 13 16 11 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.