Making it a Merry Christmas


Christmas is a time to come together, to enjoy the simple pleasures of familiar company among those we know best.

For the millions of Australians living in separated families, however, Christmas can be a poignant reminder of the loss and division created by past relationship breakdowns. Children are often caught in the parental crossfire of December hostilities – an unfortunate trend we see repeated every year amongst clients old and new.

Although every family is unique, and subject to its own particular personality dynamics, many of the problems we deal with every Christmas can be minimised by applying some simple principles to any family dispute involving children.

Think long term

One of the most important things we tell clients to do is to focus on long-term outcomes. Like it or not, you and your former partner or spouse are going to have to communicate for years to come. As the kids grow up, the need for co-operation will inevitably arise. Decisions about things such as the child’s health, education or newfound love of death-metal require parental consultation. At the very least, there will be decades of joint attendance at family events. Doing what you can now to maintain workable communication will pay dividends for everyone involved in the future. If this means swallowing your pride and letting the kids go on that summer camping trip with the other parent – it is probably an investment worth making.

Compromise wherever possible

You should be trying to resolve difficulties, not win battles. If you see conflict looming and are preparing to dig in for holiday warfare, stop and ask yourself: what is the real motivation behind your resistance to the other parent’s wishes? Are you considering the children’s best interests, or are you resurrecting old grievances? Do the kids really need to listen to your Uncle Arthur’s annual Christmas speech, or are they better off spending quality time with their dad, even if he is someone you can’t stand the sight of?

Keep your cool

If your former partner is impossible to deal with, or deliberately frustrates your Christmas plan, try your best not to let it get to you. Yes, the other parent may be three hours late dropping the kids off, or has fed them entirely on sugar and lies for a week, but this is probably done only to get a reaction from you. Don’t give them the satisfaction and don’t let the children see you lose your cool. There is a lifetime of Christmases to enjoy. If you are part of a high conflict family, one of the best gifts you can give your kids is a Christmas without confrontation. This might mean changing, postponing or even cancelling your short-term plans but in the long run it will benefit the children.

If you need more assistance with avoiding conflict over the Christmas period, please do not hesitate to contact us on (07) 5458 9000.

Originally written by Scott Lorback for Pippa Colman & Associates.

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