One in three children will see their parents split up before they reach their sixteenth birthday. “shared custody” or “equal time parenting” is on the rise and it is important that you make sure you contact arrangements work well for both you and your children.

Co-parenting can prove more challenging around the holidays. Christmas should be a meaningful and memorable holiday for children to enjoy. However, if your family have separated it can be a tricky holiday to negotiate. Non-resident parents can often feel especially sad, lonely, jealous or angry. Children can become fearful of upsetting their parents over the holiday; they don’t want to be seen as picking sides, or having had a better time with the other parent.

If you are newly separated or divorced the first few Christmases can be difficult. It is an emotional time, and if your Christmas is set to look quite different it can be painfully sad and bring up old feelings. As difficult as it may be for you, you will no doubt want to avoid making the time stressful for your children.

The biggest problem for children of divorced parents is feeling torn. Being stuck in the middle of a war as to who gets the pleasure of their company, is anxiety and guilt provoking for children. Here are our top tips to help to have a good shared care arrangement. These are applicable to any time of year but are particularly crucial over the Christmas holidays: –

  • Agree holiday contact arrangements in advance. This should be written into a contact order. It is usual for parents to have their children for Christmas on alternate years. This avoids children the unnecessary stress and travel of having to have two Christmases on the same day. It is not too late to get a contact order drawn up. Something in writing can help both parents feel safe and secure in their arrangements, and negate any concern you might have about the other parent not holding up their side of the arrangement.


  • Consider what your children want, not what you want. Christmas holidays should be about what works best for the children, not just what suits the adults.


  • Try to keep some channel of communication open with your ex.   Things can go wrong; traffic can make people late. Try not to get too upset over the minor details and focus on the enjoying the time you have with your children.


  • Show your children that you love them, and try to be your “best self” with them. Try to put yourself in their position which may help you understand why they do what they do; which may very likely be ‘acting out’ during this difficult separation period.



  • Consider family counselling, for the whole family.    This is something which is essential for a good workable shared care arrangement.  Even if you despise your ex, the process will help you understand his/her actions, even if you do not agree with them.


  • Don’t criticise the other parent to the child. Your child has a right to a healthy relationship with their other parent that is free from your influence.


  • Don’t make your child to feel like it’s their problem. It is the adult who has gone through the breakup, not the child.


  • Communicate with your children. Bring up conversations in a casual way instead of asking “Why?” all the time which can close off a conversation.  This will encourage your children to talk about what they are feeling, particularly if this has any bearing on the custody of children arrangements that you have made.  Then praise your children for having the courage to speak to you.


  • Be sensitive of the stress being placed upon your children. They have two sets of parents, two groups of siblings and two different beds.  It often means switching between different rules and routines and having two homes, and yet feeling part of neither.  Children crave stability and their things become their security.  Therefore value and protect each child’s space and their belongings.


  • Keep a calendar in a prominent place. This way children know when they are coming and going.


  • Have realistic expectations of your ex. They are not going to turn into the perfect parent overnight, especially when they weren’t when you were together.


  • Try to establish smooth transitions between homes for the children. If possible, avoid using handovers as a time to discuss issues with the other parent. This can be an emotionally charged time, and contact arrangements should remain a matter between parents.


  • Set the children as your main priority.


If you are feeling concerned about your contact arrangements, or are dealing with a difficult ex, please do not hesitate to get in touch on 0845 658 6639 for a free no obligations conversation. We can discuss your options and help you negotiate your contact arrangements, especially over the festive period.