Owing to a combination of factors, December 11 statistically presents the most likely day couples are to call it quits on a relationship, as reported in the Gold Coast Bulletin.
Whether one has a fear of facing the Christmas season with their current partner and their families or there is a reluctancy to spend money on gifts for a soon-to-be “ex”, this date is deemed as most popular due to family, social, and financial pressures that arise during the festive season. Being two weeks out from Christmas, December 11 presents the biggest day for these pressures to influence relationship stress, tension, and often spark arguments.
If you are already separated, here are some practical and sensible tips that should help you get through this Christmas season – Marino Law’s “12 tips for keeping Family law peace this Christmas:”
1. Reach a Merry agreement
Though Christmas is, once again, approaching at the speed of light, there is still time to reach an agreement regarding what will happen over the Christmas period, both financially and in relation to child arrangements.
Well-respected and experienced family lawyers know that this period can be one of the busiest and most stressful times for families and understand that we may need to provide urgent assistance and advice including court attendances and mediation, in order to assist families in getting through the festive season.
While a Court Order may be hard to achieve with limited trading days before Christmas, a Parenting Plan may well be the best option for your family over formal Court orders. There are still mediators who are available to assist urgently, and family lawyers are always available with flexibility in the lead up to Christmas.
2. Adopt a plan that works for your family
There are no set hard or fast rules on what arrangements for Christmas Eve to Boxing Day you should have in place for your family. Whatever works for your family, is what is going to be best.
Do not buy into what worked for you friend’s uncle’s cousin’s sister, instead, focus on your family and your children. While sadness is likely to arise for the parent who does not wake with the children on Christmas Day, it is an opportunity to create new traditions and new memories.
3. Focus on making Christmas Day as magical as possible for your children
Yes, it would be nice to spend Christmas day as a family, just as they do in the many Christmas films, but relationships end, and life doesn’t always go according to plan. Where appropriate, speak with your children about what they would like to do and where they would like to be on Christmas Day.
Don’t try to fit in seeing every single member of both parents’ immediate and extended family, you and the children will both be exhausted, and the day will not be enjoyable for anyone.
At the end of the day, your children’s happiness and making their day as magical as possible ought to be your focus.
4. Surround yourself with people who support you
Whether this be your immediate family, extended family, or friends that have become family, try to distract yourself from what may seem like the loneliest of times by being among friends and family who support and appreciate you.
5. Gain some perspective
Try not to get caught up in the little things, and instead stop and re-direct your attention to the important things and how you want to remember your day.
Rather than remembering whether your ex was five minutes late to changeover or that the kids couldn’t stop talking about their cool new presents they got at their other house, focus on the memories of spending time with loved ones, laughter, and over-indulging in food.
6. Take advantage of your position
If you are the parent who is in a superior financial position, Christmas time is not the time to set unreasonable expectations upon the other parent (be it financially or with the children).
Be generous and support the person that you chose to have a family with by ensuring they and, most importantly, your children do not miss out.
7. Remember the reason for the season
Christmas is really about love, family, friendship and appreciating how privileged we are.
It is not about winning the battle with your ex, being the parent who gives the best gifts, the one who spends the most money, or the parent who takes the kids to the best theme park or holiday destination. Kids know when you are competing for the title of “best parent” and, in all honesty, they don’t like it.
8. Communicate. It’s key.
If you have your children on Christmas Day, encourage them to have meaningful contact with the other parent through the course of the day via Skype, Facetime, or by phone.
Also, consider if there are Christmas events or activities approaching which need to be communicated to both parents.
If you cannot communicate effectively, a communication book may be a helpful tool. You could also communicate via text and email – whatever method is chosen; the aim is to shield your kids from the conflict between yourself and the other parent to prevent what sometimes can be irreversible harm caused to your child’s emotional and psychological wellbeing.
Alternatively, there is a fantastic range of co-parenting apps parents may use, such as 2Houses (Android, Apple), FamCal (Android, Apple) and Our Family Wizard (Android, Apple), that create a platform for parents to co-ordinate schedules, send requests to vary arrangements, and communicate about all things in relation to the children.
9. Don’t get caught up in the ideal family Christmas
It’s so important to remind yourself that there isn’t one ‘perfect’ way to spend Christmas day. Just because how you celebrate may be different to that of the ideal Christmas you see on TV, doesn’t make it any less special.
The children often don’t mind at all having two Christmases between parents, after all Santa knows where to leave his presents.
Try to free yourself from unrealistic expectations garnered by “influencers” and celebrities. This adds unnecessary pressure and feelings of guilt. Instead, remove any expectations you may have of Christmas Day and try to think about what would make you and your children truly happy.
10. Introduce and welcome new partners with care.
The holidays are probably not the best time to introduce your new special someone to your children if you have a relatively new partner.
However, if new partners are well established with your family already, the holidays can be a good time to create a blended family moving forward. Finding ways to welcome this person into your family’s traditions and incorporating some of their traditions can create a rich holiday experience for everyone.
If you know your children do not favour your new partner (this is not uncommon!) avoid using the holidays to try to force togetherness. If you see these feelings develop, try consulting a family therapist for guidance on handling the holiday season and helping your children become comfortable around your new partner.
11. Have a backup plan
No matter how hard we try to make Christmas picture-perfect, things can go wrong, especially if you are co-parenting at Christmas.
If small issues arise, make a note of them for the following year, so you can prevent them from happening again.
Unfortunately, high revelry, daytime drinking and the build-up of pressure can cause Christmas Day disasters, including ruined plans, breach of court orders or simply just terrible behaviour.
Should any of these things happen, do your very best to protect your children (and of course yourself) and do not hesitate to call 000 if you need police support. Family Lawyers are often closed for around two weeks over the Christmas and New Year period, so if you need legal help, keep a note of all the events with dates and time, and book a meeting as soon as possible.
12. Finally, seek advice before your lawyer closes!
Most law firms close their doors for two weeks over Christmas, so that your trusted advisor can renew and refresh for the new year ahead.
If you have no formal arrangements for the Christmas period, then it is very sensible to meet with a lawyer prior to their last trading day to obtain some advice about how to deal with any curveballs the Christmas period may throw at you.
If urgent issues arise over the Christmas period (either in respect of your parenting arrangements or financial matters) or you find yourself separated during this time and need to receive some urgent clarification or preliminary practical advice, reach out to Marino Law via telephone or email. We will remain available over the Christmas break to assist you if the need arises.
Remember, if any issues arise which cause you to be fearful of your safety, then call 000 without delay.
From the Marino Law family to yours, we hope that these tips will help you through the Christmas period with as little stress as possible. We are open until 12.00 noon on 18 December 2020 for appointments to discuss all aspects of your family law needs. Contact us on 07 5526 0157 or via our website www.marinolaw.com.au to make an appointment.