Christmas is a hectic time of year for any parent, but it can carry extra stresses and strains for parents who are separated or divorced. Despite the challenges involved, there are steps you can take to make things a little easier:

1. Keep children at the top of the agenda
It’s their time. Where possible, they should have contact with both parents and share the experience of the Christmas period with both Mum and Dad, even if this is at different times. Avoid unnecessary confrontation with your ex-partner, which will only increase conflict and lead to stress and anxiety for the children

2. Plan ahead
Where possible, agree upon the details of access arrangements well in advance of Christmas and New Year. Include details of times, locations and who will collect, who will return. If it’s not possible for physical access, then try to look at options like telephone or Skype to maintain connections. Again, agree upon the times and the protocols around this to avoid conflict. If agreed in advance, the children can know what’s happening and a schedule can be posted on the fridge so they know when to expect the other parent.
Note: If you have made arrangements, stick to them!

3. Avoid alcohol
This might seem like an unusual piece of advice, but whether we accept it or not, alcohol may increase the risk of conflict. Avoiding alcohol around the times you have contact with your children and your ex-partner will keep matters calmer and reduce the risk of unexpected arguments.
Deirdre Burke has over 20 years’ experience in family law, is a trained Family Law Mediator, and a member of the Family Lawyers Association & the Association of Collaborative Practitioners (Irish & International). She is a board member of Rainbows Ireland and is the founder of The Guardian Project, which supports children through parental loss and separation.
You can contact her on 0402 24370 or  and you can find her on: Twitter:@deirdremburke; Facebook: DM Burke & Co Solicitors; LinkedIn: Deirdre Burke.
Family Law & Civil Litigation Expert