Parenting expert explains how to make Christmas merry for kids after divorce

Christmas can be a tricky time for families, but it's especially hard for families where the parents are recently divorced or in the process of separating.

If you're wondering how you're going to deal with the holiday season following the end of your marriage, then we've got some wise words of advice for you.

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, author of The Gentle Parenting Book has shared her top tips for making the best of Christmas for the kids, despite relationship drama.

And her most important piece of advice is to make all of your festive decisions with the children's best interests at heart.

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Sarah, who has written numerous books on parenting, told Mirror Online: "Every single family is different. It's important that parents don't try to follow some sort of rule-book for co-parenting at Christmas.

"Instead, they should focus on their unique situation and the unique needs of their children.

"Decisions should be made with the best interests of the children at heart (often what they need, or want, can differ to the wishes of the parents), with open and honest, but respectful, communication. "

She also shared her thoughts on splitting the holidays between two homes, introducing a new partner to the children at Christmas and gift giving etiquette.

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Is it a good idea to have children split the holidays between two houses, or should the parents try and come together at Christmas?

If separated parents get on well together and want to spend the holidays together then that's great.

For many however, spending time apart is far healthier. It's much better for a child to have two happy parents in different locations, than two miserable ones trying to fake it together.

When it comes to splitting the holidays, it's so important to listen to the children and what they want, which can often look different to what the parents want.

There is nothing festive about stressing a child by keeping them with one parent at Christmas when they desperately want to be with the other one.

For some families taking turns each year works well, for others spending Christmas Day with one parent and Boxing Day at the other works, for some children, the reliability of being in the same place at the same time of year every year works best.

It really should be a decision made as a family, including the children.

Should divorced parents buy separate gifts for their children or give joint presents?

Perhaps the worst thing that separated parents can do is try to buy love and affection from their children by trying to outdo the other parent with expensive gifts. Children are not silly however, they will see through this ploy, if not immediately then in the future.

The amount and costs of presents bought obviously depend on individual finances, so it is often incredibly hard to spend equal amounts, but agreeing on big purchases together would be ideal, not least to avoid repetition.

Perhaps the best thing a separated parent can do present wise is to go shopping with their children and give them an amount of money to buy a present or two for the other parent. e.g: for dad to take the children out and buy them something to give their mum (from them) and vice versa.

This is not only a lovely activity to do with your children, it can boost their Christmas spirit and also show respect for the mother or father of your children, even though you are not together anymore.

As with anything else, be guided by the children, especially if the partner is new.

While you may be desperate to involve your new partner at Christmas, it can be a lot for the children to cope with, especially if the split is new.

The pressure on everybody to get on and enjoy Christmas can often backfire hugely.

It's much better to aim for a pressure free fun activity for an hour or two, perhaps not on the big day, rather than all spending the day together on Christmas day.

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