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Top Tips: Managing Child Arrangements at Christmas

Published on 23 December 2019 | Modified on 14 December 2022

Written by Stacey Bennett

The festive period can be a difficult time of the year for children with separated parents, especially if this is the first Christmas where they will be spending time at two homes.  Everyone involved has to come to terms with and adapt to the changes for the family and it is vital that parents do not lose sight of what is best for the children when emotions are running particularly high.

We’ve put together some tips to help ensure that this already stressful time of year is enjoyable for everyone.


  • Try to work out arrangements for the whole of the festive period as far in advance as possible. This will help to avoid upset and uncertainty and will allow both parents to make plans.
  • Treat the planning like a business meeting, rather than reverting to arguing about historic issues.
  • Ask the children what they would like to do. If they are old enough their plans should be factored into any arrangements, particularly if you live some distance apart from the other parent.
  • Communicate the plans to the children in order to show a united front and reduce any worry the children may have about splitting their time between their parents at Christmas.
  • Focus on what is best for the children, even if it means that you have to make sacrifices and compromise on your own expectations.
  • Be positive about whatever arrangements are eventually made. It’s important that the children are reassured that even though things might be different, they will still be able to enjoy all of the magic of Christmas!


  • Allow upset at the other parent, or disappointment with the arrangements to overshadow the time you spend with the children. Try to focus on enjoying your time together, no matter what compromises you may have made.
  • Criticise the other parent in front of the children. The children need to be allowed to love the other parent and to be protected from any ongoing conflict.
  • Spend all day on Christmas Day travelling with the children if this can be avoided. Plan handovers so that the children have time to relax and enjoy their Christmas with both parents. This might mean that the children are with one parent on Christmas Day and that they enjoy a second Christmas with the other parent on a different day.
  • Compare this Christmas to Christmases before the separation. Approach the change positively and carve out new traditions.
  • Attempt to control the other parent’s time with the children. Both parents are responsible for making appropriate arrangements for the children and unless the children are at risk of harm you should trust their judgement.
  • Feel pressured into buying presents you can’t afford, set a budget and don’t try to compete with the other parent.

If you have any difficulties over the Christmas period it is a good idea to try to address these issues as soon as possible. Contact one of our team of expert family lawyers to discuss your concerns and ways of resolving issues going forward.

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