News and Events

A Guide to Christmas Co-parenting

View profile for Richard Westley
  • Posted
  • Author

Co-Parenting During the Festive Season & Putting Your Child First

As the holiday season approaches, we are surrounded by images promising festive joy and family gatherings around a roaring fire. For some, as anticipation builds, it creates an idealistic image of Christmas filled with love, togetherness, films, food, and laughter. However, for others dealing with the complexities of separation and shared custody, the reality can be quite different. The stress of coordinating parenting responsibilities during this time can cast a shadow over the festive season. Arguments over what gifts to get, when to see wider family and grandparents, timings for changeovers between parents, trips away, as well as introducing children to new partners, are just some of the topics that need to be agreed upon in advance if you want your child to have a peaceful Christmas.

Start talking to your ex as early as possible to make arrangements that work for everyone over the Christmas period. The earlier you agree, the more settled and stable your child will feel, knowing what they are doing over the Christmas period.


Whether you intend to spend shared or full days with your child, make sure you are making decisions with your child's best interest at heart and don’t be rigid with your plans as they may need to change.

In this guide, we'll explore the delicate balance between the idealistic Christmas and the challenges faced by separated parents, emphasising the need to prioritise the well-being of your child above all else during this holiday season.

1. Prioritise Your Child's Well-being
In family law, the right to spend Christmas with a child may be subject to court orders (known as child arrangements orders) dealing with when a child will live, or spend time with, a parent or other person. Some parents may have agreements in place allowing them to spend the holiday with their child, while others may not. However, the overarching principle is that, provided it’s safe, a child has the right to see both parents if they wish to. As family law solicitors, we've witnessed firsthand the emotional toll that divorce or separation can take on children. It's crucial to approach the holiday season with a shared commitment to prioritise your child's well-being over personal grievances and feelings. Remember that the festive season is a time of joy for children, and ensuring they have positive and memorable experiences should be your primary goal.

2. Establish Clear Communication Channels
Effective communication is vital if you want to successfully co-parent. Now is the time to initiate open and honest discussions with your ex about the holiday plans. Share your expectations, listen to theirs, and work together to create a holiday schedule that accommodates both parents' desires while keeping the child's best interests at heart.

3. Mapping Out the Festivities Together
Once you've established open communication, work together to create a detailed holiday schedule. Clearly outline the specific dates and times each parent will spend with the child. Be flexible and considerate of each other's family traditions and commitments. A well-structured plan can help minimise confusion and reduce potential conflicts, ensuring a smoother holiday experience for everyone involved.

Some parents agree on arrangements where their child spends part of Christmas day with one parent and the other part of the day with the other. Another option that people opt for is for the child to spend Christmas Day with one parent and then Boxing day with the other and then alternate it each year. It’s important for you to sit with your child and listen to how they would like it to work and where they would like to spend their time.

4. Build Plans Based on Flexibility
Flexibility and compromise are essential components of successful co-parenting, especially during the holiday season. Understand that unexpected situations may arise, and plans may need to be adjusted. Approach these changes with a cooperative mindset, focusing on what is best for your child rather than dwelling on personal inconveniences and point scoring.

5. Creating Stability for Your Child Across Households
Consistency is vital for children, especially during times of change. Collaborate with your co-parent to maintain similar traditions and routines across both households, whether it's specific holiday rituals, bedtime routines, or mealtime traditions. Providing stability can help your child feel secure and valued during the festive season. Fostering a sense of security for your child by not being in competition with one another will allow your child to feel more secure and loved rather than feeling stuck in the middle of you both trying to win their affection. By prioritising their well-being and creating an atmosphere of cooperation, you will make for a far more harmonious holiday experience for everyone.

6. Gift-Giving: Avoiding Competition
Coordinate gift-giving to prevent a sense of competition between parents. Perhaps suggest to your child that they make a Christmas list and then divide the list between you so that there isn’t a fight for the best present/best parent award. Children will thrive off the love from both parents, and it shouldn’t be used as an opportunity to get one up on your ex. Discuss potential presents with your co-parent to avoid duplicate gifts and ensure a balanced and enjoyable gift-receiving experience for your child. Remember, the true value of the holidays lies in the time spent together rather than the material gifts exchanged.

7. Encourage Communication with Your Child and Empowering Your Child's Voice
As your child grows, encourage open communication with them about their holiday preferences. Allow them to express their feelings and desires regarding the festive season. By involving them in the decision-making process to a reasonable extent, you empower them to feel heard and valued, fostering a sense of security.

8. Cherish Shared Traditions and Create New Ones
Acknowledge the importance of continuity by cherishing shared holiday traditions from the past. Incorporate familiar customs that bring comfort and joy to your child. At the same time, be open to creating new traditions that reflect the changing dynamics of your family. By blending the old with the new, you contribute to a sense of stability and excitement, ensuring your child has a magical and memorable Christmas experience.

9. Put your child first
Approach the festive season with an open heart, a cooperative spirit, and a commitment to creating positive memories for your child. Remember that your feelings do not really come into it; by putting your child's feelings first, they will feel listened to and loved by both parents. By focusing on their happiness and emotional security, you can turn the challenges of co-parenting during Christmas into an opportunity to strengthen your child's bond with both parents.

10. Seek Professional Legal Support
If co-parenting challenges persist, consider seeking professional advice from one of our family law solicitors. There are lots of options available to parents, including mediation, which can provide a neutral platform for constructive discussions, helping parents find common ground and develop effective solutions.

If you are in need of any advice, call Richard Westley on 01827 317070 or email 

You can also glean more information from our Family Law Pages on our website



The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.