Christmas and birthdays are the most important days in a child’s calendar. When you are little, a rotation around the sun takes ‘like’ FOREVER! Just ask any 5-year-old. You’re a parent. I’m sure this isn’t news to you.
Many families have an agreement for alternating years with each parent for Christmas Day. For those who have families in country areas or other cities, this allows you to travel if you need. For other separated couples who haven’t managed to put aside their differences, alternating Christmas is just the way it is. It is widely viewed as the fairest way to manage Christmas. At least, that’s the parents’ view.
For children of separated parents, this can be a very hard day. They are missing one of the two people they love most in the world. Half of what makes them whole is absent. It’s grief they can’t yet define.
Even though they are happy in moments throughout the day, their mind wanders frequently to what the other parent is doing. Here is some of what they want you to know.
I wonder if my other parent is okay.
I wonder who they are with.
Are they having fun?
What if they are alone?
Because even a child knows being alone on Christmas would be ‘just the worst thing ever’.
For these children, a big piece of what is most precious to them is missing on Christmas Day.
What they really want you to know is
Even though today is really fun with you, I also miss them too.
I love you both and it makes me sad to not see them.
I wish that I could see them today too.
If I am acting out, it’s because I don’t have the words I need to express myself. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you, or them. It means I am sad inside.
In most cases, there are ways you can improve co-parenting at Christmas so your children truly have the best possible day.
Share the day
Even if you can only arrange an hour, please share the day with the other parent. There is nothing more heartbreaking than knowing someone you love is nearby but you can’t speak to them. Let them spend time together so they can exchange presents and be a part of each other’s happiness. No matter your past disagreements, Christmas is about the kids and this will mean the world to them.
Buy a present for the other parent
Take your child shopping to buy a thoughtful present for their other parent. It matters to them that you are resilient enough to put your differences aside. Help them wrap it and make it beautiful and special.
Include them in the day
If you are a distance away, you can still include the other parent. Facilitate a FaceTime call – or even a couple of times in the day. Ask your child if they would like to save some storable food or treats for their other parent so when they do see them they will be able to share some of those memories.
Remember your child’s extended family
Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousin’s all make up an important part of your child’s happiness. Facilitate a call with them so they can say Merry Christmas to them too.
Be happy for them when they talk about their other parent
This one applies year-round, but it’s a good reminder at Christmas to stay focused on positive communication regarding your co-parent. Encourage them to be excited for their shared time and to make the most of every opportunity. They will thank you for it in the years to come.
These are little gestures which go a long way to your child having ‘the best Christmas ever’. And we all want that for our children.
Make this a truly merry and memorable Christmas.