Separated Families At Christmas – How to Arrange The Perfect Christmas For Your Children

Imagine one of those Christmas ads. Children flying through snowy clouds, skating across ice, sharing bedtime secrets with a benevolent monster. I think you know the sort of thing I mean.

And the final scene - the delighted children opening their presents around the Christmas tree ...

The Perfect Christmas

What I would like to do is ask these children, let’s call them Emma and Ethan, if they’re having a great Christmas. That’s if I can attract their attention away from the presents.

First of all, Ethan.

Ethan, are you having a great Christmas?”

He doesn’t look up. He’s tearing Christmas paper from a large present.

Where are the batteries?” he says.

Don’t Forget The Batteries!

Yes, fair question. Where are the batteries? There’s a chance the shops are still open. Buy some batteries so this doesn’t happen to you.

Now let’s try Emma. She’s a bit older, and is carefully examining her smart phone. Maybe she’s checking to see if her favourite game app has downloaded.

Emma, are you having a great Christmas?”

I haven’t seen my Daddy,” she says.

She looks up briefly. Her eyes are sad ...

Turn your focus away from the Christmas tree (an enormous Norway spruce covered with flickering lights) and notice the children’s mother, Ashleigh. She’s sitting on the sofa by herself and doesn’t look too happy either. This is because her ex, Matt, has sent her an angry text.

Matt immediately regretted sending it. But right now he’s justifying himself to his parents who are sitting around an artificial Christmas tree that’s been mended with tape. It’s the same old tree that gets dragged out every Christmas. They couldn’t be bothered to get a new one, what with not seeing the grandchildren, yet again.

But why does it have to be like this? Can we have a happy ending, please? The sort of happy ending where the children see both their parents at Christmas, and both their sets of grandparents? Yes, of course.

Let’s time travel back a few weeks

Here again is the sitting room, the children playing on the floor, and Ashleigh sitting on the sofa. It’s just an ordinary day.

But Ashleigh is looking intently at her phone. She’s been texting with Matt.

They have agreed that come what may they will put their personal feelings aside and do what’s right for Emma and Ethan.

They have acknowledged they must work together. That they must put their children first.

Separated Families At Christmas – What Arrangements Can Be Made For The Perfect Christmas?

Ashleigh and Matt have agreed they will take it in turns each Christmas. This year Emma and Ethan will be with Matt on Christmas Eve and with Ashleigh on Christmas Day. Her parents will be coming over, too. There will be a happy house full.

Let’s reimagine the perfect Christmas ad …

It starts on Christmas Eve. The children’s faces glow with happiness as they tear open their presents around a brand new and splendid tree. Matt and his parents sit on the sofa, smiling and laughing.

Now the ad moves to Christmas Day. The children’s faces glow with happiness as they tear open their presents around an enormous Norway spruce. Ashleigh and her parents sit on the sofa, smiling and laughing.

… and  let’s ask the children if they are having a great Christmas …

Ethan doesn’t look up, he’s too busy fitting the batteries into a strange, eye rolling monster. Now ask Emma. “Yes,” she says, excitedly, “We went to Daddy’s and he gave me a new smart phone.” She checks to make sure her favourite game app has downloaded.

… and please don’t forget to agree the presents

Ashleigh and Matt agreed a Christmas present list for the children, and who was going to give them which present. This means the children didn’t receive duplications, and neither parent felt the need to compete with the other. Presents can be another bone of contention for separated families at Christmas.

The children give Ashleigh the present Matt helped them buy for her. Fluffy reindeer slippers with huge antlers. She loves them!

Heart warming - the long awaited and eagerly anticipated perfect family Christmas. Merry Christmas to all!


Contact Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice about making arrangements for your children with their other parent. In this 20 minute session we will:

  • Review the current arrangements and how they’re working
  • Consider with you what arrangements would be in the children’s best interests
  • Recommend how you can reach an agreement with their other parent, for example by mediation, negotiation or collaborative law


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JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions.

We offer collaborative law which is especially relevant in providing solutions tailored to your family’s needs. This includes same sex couples and their families.

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The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. Therefore if any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog have application to you, seek expert legal advice.

image: Bittersweet – The Ups And Downs Of Military Life by Airman 1st Class Jessica Evans on Wikimedia Commons


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