Sharing children with care at Christmas – Kath Curran
We had separated over a summer so the first Christmas my children woke up to without their Dad in the house was nearly a full year onwards. Everything else was as it had been the year before: a decorated Christmas tree, Santa sacks busting with surprises, the evidence of the reindeers’ late night carrot snacking on the trampoline. The boys, aged 6yrs and 4yrs, were also in true form jumping onto my bed not long after dawn.
“Shall we see if Santa came last night?” My older son replied without hesitation “No, we will wait until Daddy comes”. A moment contemplating the very long morning ahead, then a phone call, gratitude for the amicability on the parenting stuff and the close proximity and soon the Santa sacks were being happily explored. I had no doubt talked to them about the plans for spending time with their father for Christmas Day but I don’t think I’d asked them what they thought would happen. We’ve had a dozen Christmases since then and their blended family shared day and travel are just the norm – early wake-up calls though, have long past.
It’s like we try to make time bend backwards to accommodate all the sharing of children with family in order to create festive memories. Sometimes it overwhelms.
If handovers are a part of your festive routine Napier Family Centre’s relationship counsellors and strengthening stepfamilies facilitators have some useful advice:
- Make clear arrangements before Christmas about sharing care
- Be co-operative for your children’s sake – they deserve nothing less
- Always remember the child’s right to have a happy and free relationship with both parents
- Often children will be concerned about the parent not with them, worrying that Mum or Dad will be sad or lonely. Reassure them by saying ”I really want you to go and have a good time, I’ve got lots of nice things planned for me while you are away” (I found this tip especially helpful in the early years)
- It’s heart-breaking for both child and the parent waiting if you’re not on time for the pick-up. If you are going to be late, ring or text
- Keep harmony at change-over time; no arguing
- Speak well of the other parent and never ”put them down”. This includes negativity among whānau members as well. Speaking well about your former partner (and possibly their new partner) ensures that the children will feel safe and secure. Children with warring parents do suffer, and this may not come to the surface until years later. Tell the child that you are happy for them to see the other parent – in fact, you want them to
- Try and create some new traditions around Christmas that become part of your step family’s culture, and will give your children lasting memories
- And if you are travelling – travel safely – a child and/or their parent are precious cargo
Napier Family Centre’s Xmas Cheer programme provides Christmas fun to over 200 children so if you would like to donate a present contact us on Ph 8437280 or email [email protected].