Navigating divorce during Christmas

Christmas is a notoriously expensive time of the year when finances are high on many people’s worry list, and with the added cost of living crisis now thrown into the equation, the winter season is set to be a costly one.

Mum dad and daughter preparing the Christmas tree

For many couples looking to divorce, not only does Christmas stir up negative emotions, as it’s a time that families tend to come together, but it also magnifies the feelings of loneliness. There is so much expectation that this will be a ‘perfect’ family time, when in fact, it can be dominated by high-maintenance in-laws, sugar-high children and endless culinary demands. The all-consuming divorce process can also be very inconvenient during the festive period. Christmas is a notoriously busy time of the year, and the last thing you want on your mind is when to schedule your next meeting with the divorce lawyers.

people holding sparkles

Here experts Samantha Woodham and Harry Gates from The Divorce Surgery offer effective advice to enable couples to have a spirited Christmas without the woes of divorce hanging over their heads.

Harry and Samantha sitting at desk at The Divorce Surgery posing for mums magazine

Co-founded by Samantha Woodham and Harry Gates, The Divorce Surgery aids couples in joint and impartial legal advice, so they can solve problems together. The Divorce Surgery offers a unique and effective form of legal advice which allows couples to resolve their conflict quickly, fairly and at a fixed rate. This means that they can also cut down the divorce process by not only a matter of weeks but months, making the whole process much more straightforward, enabling couples to still have a spirited Christmas without the woes of divorce hanging over their heads.

 

You are still a family, just re-shaped

Please don’t buy into the narrative that the ‘gold standard’ is a nuclear family, wearing matching Christmas jumpers, sitting together round a fire. If you have children, please know that divorce does not damage children. Being caught up in the adult conflict through a bad divorce, or a bad marriage, is what causes children, and adults, harm. You continue to have all the skills and parenting capacity you have had throughout your children’s lives.

 

This Christmas can still be a huge success, and in fact could be much more fun than last Christmas, if at that stage tensions were beginning to show. Ditch the guilt, or any assumption that this will be a worse Christmas for the children. It really doesn’t need to be. Your family is still a family, just re-shaped.

 

Make a plan

If you have children, make a plan which goes much deeper than simply dividing up the time. Think about what it is which makes Christmas special in their eyes. Are there any family traditions you can keep?

 

Be kind to each other, and yourselves

This may well be a hard Christmas. Allow yourself the permission to feel that. Remember, even if this separation and divorce was not your choice, you can choose how you approach it. It is easier to turn against each other, but in the longer term the resulting conflict will make the divorce so much harder to navigate, for you and any children, and will also be harder to live with in the long run.

 

If the separation was your choice, and perhaps you feel excited about Christmas in a way you haven’t for many years, allow yourself to be happy but in a way which is respectful to your ex-spouse. Show empathy. Think about the parts of the run-up or day itself which they may find hardest and suggest ways you can help. Send messages of support.

 

Treat yourself

There is a particular joy which comes from choosing your own Christmas present. Embrace it. Don’t look mournfully at the gap under the tree, or expect your children to get you something you actually want (they won’t). Rather, make this year the one year you buy a present for you. You’re doing great, and surely deserve one.

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