Giving your children a perfect Christmas during a separation usually becomes more of a negotiation and compromise exercise between ex partners rather than actually fulfilling children’s wishes in a ‘perfect’ way.
First of all, step away from the notion of a ‘perfect’ Christmas. There is no such thing. A lot of what we are made to believe is the best Christmas ever, is a marketing ploy and does not take into account the true small details that mean the most, especially to children, at this time of year.
Children are usually far less demanding than anticipated, and yes, they may feel the absence of one parent for a certain amount of the time during the festivities, but depending on their age, as long as they get to be in contact with that parent, where appropriate, and the circumstances are understood, they are generally happy to try out new ways of celebrating, creating new traditions for the future and so forth.
One of the best gifts you can give your children during a separation, is the knowledge that you will not be arguing, fighting, unhappy or stressed in their presence with their other parent. No matter what the current situation is, remember to view the time through your children’s eyes, often they just want to see their families, open their presents and spend time with their friends. If you can refrain from getting into arguments or dwelling on past (or current) hurts with your ex partner, you will allow your children to be more relaxed and able to enjoy their time.
Steer clear of competing with your ex partner for the children’s affections by trying to outdo them with bigger, better, fancier of anything. This does not work and will not only lead to further resentment from your ex partner, but will instil in children the notion that they can play each of you off against each other for their gain. This will be very unhelpful in the long run. It may cause you, or your ex partner to get into more financial difficulty, which is often the reality for separating couples.
Try to agree on suitable times and days for your children to be able to spend time with all of the available family members if they wish, as this is often a time that extended families will notice the split more as the usual family gatherings will take on a different aspect. It may be very difficult and emotional, but there are plenty of times when you will also be there to spend quality time with your children.
Talk to your children to find out what they would actually like from their Christmas time off from school/college etc. You may be surprised at what answers they give. Also ask them what they really miss/what traditions they want to do with each parent/family member. This can sometimes be more important than bigger presents etc simply time doing little things like decorating a tree together or going to a carol concert and watching a favourite Christmas movie together.