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Home Alone? – Advice for separated fathers at Christmas

Christmas is a holiday dedicated to family, togetherness and goodwill. As such, it can be extremely daunting to be without the family you love the most to celebrate with.

Why is Christmas tough for separated parents?

In the UK, many separated or divorced fathers face a grim reality when it comes to celebrating Christmas with their children. With families struggling to make arrangements surrounding the festivities, only one percent of non-resident parents have their children with them consistently for Christmas (Parfitt, 2019).

Separated fathers may be struggling to cope with the changes they now face and what Christmas will now look like after the romantic relationship has ended.

A family affair

It is extremely unlikely for a court to award one parent every Christmas. There is no provision in law for Christmas contact arrangements. Parents are very much encouraged to negotiate this between themselves with courts intervening only where it is absolutely necessary and agreements cannot be made privately.

As such, separated fathers will likely find themselves in a predicament of navigating contact and the prospect of being without their children for Christmas, which can be extremely emotionally taxing and isolating.

Many fathers can find it difficult to cope emotionally, particularly in the first years following a separation.

Christmas is a holiday dedicated to family, togetherness and goodwill. As such, it can be extremely daunting to be without the family you love the most to celebrate with.

1. Consider how your children view Christmas

Firstly, it is important to remember that your children will just want to celebrate the holidays with their family. They likely won’t care about specifics and may even be excited about having two opportunities to celebrate.

If you are unable to spend Christmas with your children, you may want to celebrate during the days and weeks before or after Christmas. It may not be the same, but it will add festive excitement for your children.

2. Plan before December!

Consider planning your Christmas plans with your partner much earlier in the year. This will allow time for potential roadblocks and disagreements. Should you find that you cannot make suitable arrangements with your ex-partner, you may wish to attend mediation. In the event that agreements still cannot be reached, consider making a Child Arrangements Order to the court (if there is not already one in place). It is wise to begin this process as soon as you can, to ensure that the arrangements are already in place for when you need them.

3. Collaborate with your co-parent

If you have an amicable relationship with your ex-partner, you may wish to make plans together for Christmas Day. You likely both have the same goal which is to give your children a special day and help them to feel loved. In actual fact, 23% of separated parents in the UK choose to spend the day with their ex-partner in order to be with their children all day and for some parents, give their children the opportunity to be with both parents.

4. What’s the next best thing that would light up your holiday season?

If you are unable to split the time and will be facing Christmas without your children, it may be helpful to make alternative, non-traditional plans. Visit friends, take a holiday. For many, it can be challenging to be at home for Christmas as it can be an uncomfortable reminder. Do what you can to remain in good spirits despite the circumstances.

5. Help others or connect with other separated parents

Alternatively, if you cannot be with your children, why not partake in some charity work? This could be facilitating a Christmas lunch for the homeless or donating to those who are less fortunate. This can be a rewarding and fulfilling way of occupying yourself over Christmas.

Note: We appreciate that not all families celebrate Christmas and there are other special holidays in the December season, like Kwanza, Chanukah and New Year that may be more relevant to some families.

Some of the lessons in this blog still apply to other religious holidays. If you are fortunate and that you and your ex-partner belong to different religions, you may have an easier time making plans.

More support

If you would like support you can contact Dads Advocates, if you would like to join a men's group, DM @team_fatherli.

If you would like to join separated parents, you can join Solo Parents United.

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