8 Dec 2017

How to do Christmas when you're separated

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:30 pm on 8 December 2017

Christmas is often described as a time for family, so what if your family is breaking up? NZ Mediator of the Year Timothy McMichael talks about how to make things easier for kids.

christmas holly decoration

Photo: Markus Spiske

It's often helpful for separated parents to get help from a qualified mediator so they can come to an agreement which puts the children first.

Also, listen to what your child wants to do.

From the age of six or seven a kid is able to make an informed decision about what they want to do on Christmas Day – so give them that opportunity, Timothy says.

Most often, a child will say they way want to spend Christmas with both parents.

"I say 'That's not going to happen. How about half a day with each?' They always say no."

Many people split Christmas day down the middle for their children so they spend the morning with one parent and the afternoon with the other.

But from a kids perspective this can be a lot to deal with, he says.

"The kid wakes up in the morning, they're going to open some presents, they maybe go down to the beach for an hour, hour and a half. The food's cooking on the barbecue but they know their other parent is going to be coming along between 12 and 1 to pick them up...

"It's just too much for a child to manage. They're split between wanting to please each parent."

More and more parents now do 'year about' and take turns having the kids on Christmas day.

Timothy says this can work best when kids spend the whole Christmas week with one parent then the whole New Year week with the other – if you make New Year a special occasion.

"It's kind of a win-win for everyone."

Timothy McMichael is a service manager at Family Works Resolution in Auckland.

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