The Best Holiday Gift for Your Children

The holidays can be a stressful time for newly separated families, where all of the usual traditions are up in the air, the children’s schedule may be uncertain, and children may be caught in the middle.

The very best gift you and your former spouse can give your children this holiday season is the gift of peace. While this may sound ‘corny’, in fact the research overwhelmingly shows that keeping kids out of conflict during and after separation is the best gift that separating parents can give. All year long, but especially during the holidays, kids need permission to love both of their parents, to enjoy time with each parent, and to look forward to the next time they see each parent. Research shows that children who are not exposed to parental conflict do better in the long term than children who are exposed to parental conflict.

And, it is not only ‘fighting’ that children need to be shielded from. Of course, it is best if kids are not exposed to arguments, whether about sharing time, new partners, the schedule, or other adult issues. But our children are smart – they also pick up on non-verbal cues, and the things that are not said about the other parent. They pick up on conflict – whether explicit or not – from a mile away. And, even when we think it doesn’t, it affects them.

Having a plan for the holidays can greatly reduce the risk of exposing children to conflict and can help your children experience positive holiday memories even in a difficult and transitional time. Mediators can help build such a plan in a positive and supportive environment.

What is the Difference Between a Lawyer and a Mediator?

You may be wondering what the difference is between a lawyer and a mediator, and it is a very good question. Many (but not all) mediators are also trained as lawyers. Some lawyers are also trained as mediators. But they are not the same thing.

Your mediator will help you and your former partner or spouse discuss issues related to children and finances, and will support you in making a plan that works for both of you while keeping your children front and centre.

If you and your former spouse don’t see eye to eye on things – which is normal and common at separation – your mediator will help you identify what is most important to each of you and to generate options that work for both of you and your kids.

Once you have an agreement in principle, she will prepare a draft contract, setting out the terms you both feel are reasonable and fair. Your mediator is equally responsible to both you and your former spouse and keeps your kids at the forefront.

Your lawyer will also assist you, and is an important part of the process of arriving at a separation agreement. Your lawyer may or may not attend mediation with you — this is for you to decide. Your lawyer’s role is primarily to advise you as to your rights and obligations, possibly assist in negotiating an agreement, and ultimately to advise you whether the agreement you want to enter into is fair to you.

Your lawyer only represents you, not your former spouse. Where you have legal advice in arriving at an agreement, those agreements are more likely to stand the test of time. Legal advice helps both you and your former spouse be sure that the agreement meets both of your needs.

Bluewater Mediators work closely with your lawyer, whether you would like your lawyer “at the table” with you, or if you consult with your lawyer before you attend mediation and then to review your draft agreement.

If you are thinking of mediation and you have a lawyer, Bluewater suggests contacting your lawyer to discuss mediation. We are happy to speak with your lawyer about how the process can be tailored to suit your situation, your goals, and your concerns.