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Will It Be The Best Of Times, Or The Worst Of Times

The holiday season is one of the most stressful times of the year. We’re all expected to be happy, and to have happy children and families.

The pressure and expectation can be too much, which is probably why more marriages end this time of year than any other.

It can be even worse for us dads who share the parenting of our children with an ex-partner.

We may not be scheduled to have access on Christmas day, and even if we do, it could be cancelled. We may have to face the sight of our ex having a wonderful day with her new partner and our kids.

How’s a fella supposed to cope with that?

“Planning,” says therapist and university lecturer Ken McMaster. Don’t wait til Christmas eve to do the shopping and make the access arrangements and do the million other things that can crop up.

On Christmas day, “have someone else do the pick up and drop off,” says McMaster — especially if there’s any tension between you and your ex. The last thing anyone needs is a scene.

Our children deserve better than to have the most memorable day of their year spoiled because their parents can’t get on.

Basically, we need to “predict what the hot spots are going to be and then plan around them,” says McMaster. Think ahead. Play safe. Make arrangements for your Christmas day and holiday season that are fun enough to be truly enjoyed, yet laid back enough to not be stressful.

If you know in advance you won’t be seeing your kids on Christmas day, McMaster has other suggestions.
“Some people,” he says, “get right out of it.” They take off to Akaroa or Hanmer or wherever and just “vanish” for the day.

“The important thing,” he says, is that they’re doing “something fun for themselves.”

For others, being with friends on Christmas is very important. When McMaster himself was newly separated, he faced this challenge by organising “a breakfast for a whole lot of friends for Christmas day.” He described it as “relaxing together stuff.”

By planning the breakfast, he was able to take his mind off his own worries.

By spending the morning with friends, he was able to salvage the joy of the day. We all need, he says, “that sense of connecting.”

Simple, fun and inexpensive ideas are best. Taking a picnic to a beach or swimming pool, getting together with other dads in a similar situation, or having a BBQ are all good ideas.

Another suggestion is to go to the City Mission, either just to eat, or as a volunteer.

Remember, for all the warnings, Christmas is really about one thing: fun. If we’re not having fun, then maybe we need to take a step back, take a deep breath and be a bit more relaxed about the whole thing.

Everything might not go to plan, but our children certainly wont be enjoying themselves if they’re feeling pressured to be happy.

If worse should come to worst and access is unexpectedly denied, don’t do anything foolish. But do make sure you’ve got someone to talk to, and a way to look after your needs. The best way we can give to our children is by sorting out our own personal issues first.

Next: Back to School

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