Christmas for separated or divorced parents can be challenging and may not be easy. However, there are things you can do that will make a difference. 

With a little planning and thinking of the things that will help you to have a good time, you will be busy and enjoy the break.

Spend time with friends and indulge yourself, whether with a new outfit or a massage. Buy yourself a great book for a fireside. Read over the holidays and enjoy some classic dvds with your children for magic and sparkle!

Build in some new traditions when your children are with your ex, whether you volunteer or have a little holiday over the break.

Plan ahead

When managing separation with children, keep open discussion about your parenting strategies as much as you can.

Make your arrangements for Christmas as far in advance as possible. This can be fraught as both parents want and need to see their children at Christmas, therefore negotiation is key, along with the ability to see things from the other person’s perspective.

Be flexible

Where will the children spend Christmas Day? When do they get to see the other parent? Try to step into your ex partner’s shoes and see it from their point of view.

This may help you to reconcile your differences for the sake of your children, and put their needs first at Christmas.

Divorce and children – negotiate difference

Negotiate the differences between you and your ex and be open to things from their point of view. When they have a sense of be listened to and understood, you will find they are more able to listen to you.

Avoid conflict in front of the children and do not speak badly about your ex to them as they do not want to be asked to take sides.


Your ability to compromise around the times/days you have access to your children, reduces the stress all around and children are sensitive to conflict between their parents.

It is a difficult time for both partners, therefore, trying to focus on the current issue, and not to bring up old issues is important.

Do not compete with your ex

Many parents compete with Christmas presents. So often children get caught in the crossfire of conflict around money; so avoid if possible. Try to agree a budget or purchase something together if possible.

Children enjoy all the traditions around Christmas, not just the presents; so enjoy the old traditions and build in some new ones.

Every year, I love getting some fresh air for a day in Glendalough with friends. A three hour trek, hot food off the camper stove is enjoyed by adults and children alike. It also costs very little!

Mind yourself

Christmas is going to be an emotional time for you, therefore your ability to mind yourself will determine the degree to which you can mind your children. Take care of yourself at this time. Be aware of trying to meet your own needs – for company, support, time out and a treat.

Failure to meet your own needs only results in your inability to meet your children’s. You can end up running on empty, cranky, irritable and impatient.

Recognise the warning signs and respond early to them. Even better: think in advance “How can I support myself this Christmas to ensure it’s a happy time for all the family?”

Establish some new traditions this year

Children of all ages love to get together with friends and family around food and music. Plan an evening for extended family for a get together with a sing song and some food. Accept all offers of food and help so you get to enjoy it too!

Keeping the old traditions does not mean you cannot build in some new traditions. A trip into the city on Christmas Eve is guaranteed to be enjoyed by all, to enjoy the carol singers and all the festive cheer.

Encourage contact with the other parent

Make sure your children phone/text the other parent over the Christmas period. It is an emotional time for all and it’s good to have parental involvement from both of you.

If you are going to be alone on Christmas day, organise to meet up with friends or family. Do something worthy and don’t forget to treat yourself! Reassure your children you will be OK when they’re not with you and you have plans and occupied or longing for some ‘me’ time!