Ask the Expert: Dreading first Christmas as a separated dad

Make a plan for the time you will be alone and be sensitive to your own feelings of upset at Christmas. Post separation, parents’ own mental wellbeing can take a nose dive so try to be aware of this. Photograph: Getty Images

Make a plan for the time you will be alone and be sensitive to your own feelings of upset at Christmas. Post separation, parents’ own mental wellbeing can take a nose dive so try to be aware of this. Photograph: Getty Images

Tue, Dec 17, 2013, 01:00

Q My wife and myself separated last February. We had not been getting on for several years and I finally moved out and now live with my father. I thought things might improve with us living apart, but in fact they seem to have got worse and it has been very hard the past year for me to see my two boys (four and six).

Through the court, I have been granted weekend access and once during the week. This has been going okay, though my boys are reluctant to stay over with me at their grandfather’s house. Because they live nearby, they often prefer to go home and sleep in their own beds.

Over Christmas, the court ruled that I can see my children on Stephen’s Day and the New Year, but they will stay with my ex-wife for Christmas Eve and all of Christmas Day. As we come to Christmas I realise how much I am going to miss them this year. I feel I have been treated unfairly and am cut out of a lot of their lives.

To be honest, I feel in a much worse position than I was last Christmas. Even though there was a frosty silence between my wife and I, at least I was there with my kids. Now I will be alone.

A Experiencing relationship break down and separation is one of the hardest things you can go through as a parent. It is particularly challenging at Christmas when family events and togetherness are highlighted and your own particular losses are experienced acutely.

The first Christmas is often the hardest, when you are adjusting to a new living situation that might be still far from ideal.

As a father, not being there with your children for the special moments of Christmas Eve and morning can be very hard and this can be especially difficult if you are alone yourself.

Though it can seem like a workable practical arrangement for one parent to have the children at Christmas and the other at the New Year, frequently this is difficult for the children and the parents who might prefer more frequent contact at this special time of year.


Negotiate with their mother about Christmas arrangements
While it may be short notice to try to change this year’s arrangements, there may be some scope for negotiating with their mother about making things a little easier.

Perhaps there is scope for you to visit on Christmas morning or to take them out for a short walk or perhaps you can at least talk to them on phone or by Skype on Christmas morning.

How much you can negotiate depends of course on the relationship you might have with their mother.

In trying to reach agreement, it is very important to try to see the situation from her point of view as this will help you reach better compromises.

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