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Evidence suggests that more than one in four parents make an effort to hide relationship problems at Christmas and stay together for the sake of their children. It’s perhaps no surprise, therefore, that the first working day after the Christmas break has been known by family solicitors as D-Day, or ‘Divorce Day’.
So is it a good idea to hide relationship problems over the festive period? Many would argue that the evidence suggests not. It is well reported that there are long-term negative implications of staying together, with children indicating that, despite their parent’s best efforts, they were able to pick up that something was wrong.
Children also said when questioned that they feel guilty when their parents eventually do split up that they had stayed together just for them. Some even felt lied to in that their parents kept difficulties from them for so long. More generally, children also reported that living in an ‘unhappy home’ was a more upsetting environment than when their parents did eventually separate and they spent time with them individually.
However, there are practical concerns to address, which can be especially important during the holidays. Issues such as:
- when, how, and who will tell the children?;
- who will move out?;
- what will happen to the house?; and
- arguably the most important issue at this time of year - how the children will spend time with both parents and their families over the festive period, particularly the ‘special days’ of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
There are also emotional considerations. How will the first Christmas apart affect the children and how will they react when you ultimately tell them? If you are the parent missing out on a ‘special day’ at Christmas, how will this affect you and what will you do with all the spare time? Is there anyone in a similar situation you can talk to or spend time with?
Irrespective of whether you are together or apart, what’s crucial for your family is that Christmas doesn’t become an opportunity to criticise, or ‘get one up’ on your ex-partner. It’s sadly all too common for parents to use Christmas to criticise the other parent and family and the situation can be made even worse if it’s done following a little too much ‘festive cheer’. Another common problem can be showering children with presents to show you are the ‘better’ parent or otherwise buying that gift that mum or dad already said the child couldn’t have. Whilst it might make you feel better in the short term, this does nothing other than damage the child and further strain the relationship between parents.
In conclusion, if this article strikes a chord, think carefully about your options this Christmas. If you are staying together, try to avoid parental conflict and, if practical, have some time apart if you can. If you are going to be apart, try to ensure the festive period is as enjoyable for you and the children as it can be. Whether you are together or not, try to put the children’s feelings above your own. If you are struggling during the festive period, get help from friends, family or professionals.
Whether it’s now or in the New Year, if you have come to the conclusion that your relationship is no longer working, please do call our family team at Anthony Collins Solicitors. We have both legal specialists and accredited family mediators who will be happy to talk to you, discuss your options and point you in the direction of a number of different professionals who might be able to help.
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