Adriana Galimberti-Rennie, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, Managing Director of Painless Divorce, explains how to Relieve the Stress of the Festive Season for Separated Families.

The season of “good cheer” can be anything but that if your family has separated. It poses difficulties such as who has the children on which of the important days, do you buy presents together or separately and many others? There is never an easy solution at this “family” time of year, but here are some of our top tips.

Make a plan

Co-ordinate your diaries. If wider family celebrate with you, ensure they are all aware of your plans in advance – and also re-assure the children that you are both going to be OK yourselves at Christmas.

If you can split Christmas day into two halves, then everyone benefits. One solution is for children to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning with one parent, then the remainder of the day with the other – that way, especially with small children, all can share in the delight of seeing if “Santa” has been; on Christmas morning with one partner then later on with the other. Perhaps the children could stay with one parent for a few days after Christmas then the other over New Year. Agree to alternate it next year.


If you have bought joint presents, ensure there are a few at each location. If buying individually, don’t try to outdo each other – this can cause stress and guilt if a child knows one parent is struggling financially; the child’s happiness is more important than who can buy the most expensive item and it may not even be what they want most. Or you could consider pooling your resources.


Involve the Children

Make an effort. You might not feel like it, but put up a tree, buy (or make!) new decorations – involve the children in this activity so they feel a part of it. Make mince pies or other goodies with them so it becomes their Christmas in each place.

Christmas with a New Family

This is probably the hardest scenario; if you have a “new family”, make a special effort to stop your children feeling excluded. It’s not about presents, but unity. Be on their team in party games, sit next to them at dinner, make them feel wanted.

What children need most is to feel love and security – these are the most important presents you can give them.

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