Managing Christmas Expectations
It is just under three weeks to Christmas and as most people gear up for this most consumerist of festivals it is wise to have a thought about managing expectations. Even the happiest of family's Christmas can go awry; a tactless comment, a forgotten stocking, a dropped turkey......so spare a thought for those who have just separated from a partner. Their children will undoubtedly be in need of extra cheer and they themselves may well appreciate being scooped up - who said that you cannot spend Christmas with friends for instance? And if you yourself have recently found yourself self-partnered, as Emma Watson would have it, here are a few commonsensical tacks to take when dealing with your ex.
It is exactly at this time of year that someone throws in a googly like "I am going to spend Christmas with Dad" or you hear that a new partner is suddenly going to be on the scene. Pre-empt all of this by attempting to talk about what is happening at Christmas for you both and where the children should be. Fairness is different in different people's eyes so while some people insist on seeing their children on Christmas Day, thus dividing Christmas Day in two, some feel that Christmas should be an entity in itself and are prepared to delay the gratification so that they get a proper two day Christmas themselves the following year. There is no right way, but communication, the age of your children and probably time will mean that you should be able to work it out between you. Be prepared to talk about it, and be prepared to come up with a fair plan that you devise together ideally. If you have children together and contact and communication has broken down entirely, do consider mediation. Sometimes, just having to lay it all bare with another person in the room makes the insoluble more soluble.
Tell your children what the plan is
They don't want to have to be the ones to make the decisions, especially when they are small. They will prefer strong and stable to possible and unpredictable. Once they know the plan they can look forward to seeing both parents without feeling guilty about the other parent on their own because they know that they will have time with you both. For that reason, amongst a multitude of others, stick to the plan. Mucking around with it will only disappoint and aggravate at a time when tempers may already be short because the days are dark and there is much to get ready.....not to mention a decision to be made on 12th December.
Have an armistice on presents
You really cannot buy love and going one up on whatever your ex is buying for the children is not going to endear you to them and in the long term will not help your children and your relationship with them. If possible, you could try to discuss what you are going to buy with each other so that they complement each other - you get the roller skates and I shall get the helmet. If money is tight a shared present from Mummy and Daddy can be an example of how you can work together for your children, even if you cannot live together.
Finally, encourage the children to make contact with your ex and their family on Christmas Day if they are not seeing them then. A quick 'phone call will make a world of difference to a parent suddenly for the first time without a child at Christmas and should not mar your day. Next year, you can expect the same treatment and you have set the precedent for the children too.
But wherever you are and whatever you do I hope that you have a Happy Christmas that may exceed your well-managed expectations.