That dreaded first Christmas post divorce or relationship break up is not just an emotional minefield, but full of practical complications as well. Here are three people who share their different experiences and give new single parents some advice, whether it is coping without the children over Christmas or spending Christmas night with your ex partner!
Sunita (not her real name) two children – 11 & 14 - divorced 5 years, works for a local authority:
“We agreed quite easily after the divorce how we would work things over Christmas. If I have the kids over Christmas week, their dad has them over New Year week, and the next year we swop over. I don't mind too much not seeing them over Christmas as I am not a Christian, but when I spent my first Christmas at my sister's surrounded by other people's children but not my own, it was very hard.
When I have the children over Christmas, even if we go away, they always ring their dad on Christmas day. We spend the day with friends and family and don't try to create that festive atmosphere with just the three of us. Being with other happy people at Christmas whether with your kids or without them is a good thing to do.”
Scott Collier 2 children - 13 & 19 - divorced 2 years, Photographer specialising in family photography and also the 'first UK divorce photographer' - the official photographer of the Starting Over Show
“Our Christmas arrangements were stipulated in our divorce contact arrangements – we would take turns each year of having the children for the whole Christmas and New Year period. That meant we could go away with the children abroad for some quality time. I had to enforce the contact arrangements by going back to court, representing myself with the help of information I got off the Families Need Fathers website, but since then our post divorce relationship has got much better and this year we have been very flexible with us both spending time with the children. They will be with their mum on Christmas day and with me on Boxing Day. I did invite their mum and her boyfriend over for Boxing Day breakfast, but the children preferred that we keep things separate which really surprised me. It was good that my ex wife asked them what they wanted as they are old enough now to make their own decisions.
My first Christmas without the children was horrible. I felt like a complete failure but it was a cathartic experience, and I promised I would never put myself through that again. This year I will be spending Christmas abroad with friends.”
Suzy Miller 3 children – 8, 10 & 12 – long term relationship ended 6 years ago, producer of Starting Over Show, the first UK divorce fair
“I was dreading my first Christmas after the breakup of my 10 year relationship. But I spent it with family and friends and I still enjoyed it, although it was hard not to feel guilty about the children having to be with only one of their parents instead of both.
We originally swapped each year – I had the kids for Christmas one year and he had them for New Year, and vice versa. But we went through a really bad time which resulted in me taking the kids away over Christmas and New Year and not seeing their dad at all. When our post breakup relationship improved, I was keen not to deprive their dad or the children of each other over Christmas, but at the same time, I felt resentful at not being allowed to wake up with my own kids on Christmas Day.
Luckily, my ex's new wife has provided a solution in that one year I stayed over at their place on Christmas Eve, and last year my ex and his wife are staying over at mine. I would not have thought it possible a few years back, but Christmas can really bring out the best in people and I guess it is a time of miracles.”
Interesting Fact: A study has shown that January 8th is the busiest day of the year for divorce lawyers when up to 1 in 5 couples will enquire about divorce after the pressures of Christmas. The enforced intimacy of Christmas, coupled with the start of a new year, is thought to be the main trigger.
Reported in the Daily Telegraph 8 January 2007