How to reframe the problem of Christmas into an opportunity

Whose turn is it for Christmas?

The difficulties of shared care at Christmas can tarnish its celebration. However, you can reframe the problem into an opportunity.


Last time we talked about the other parent and Christmas is one of those times that the other parent will feature in your planning. You know the questions and statements: Who will have the kids on Christmas day? You had the kids last year, it’s my turn! My family’s having the big event with all the distant relatives coming so they should spend time with me. Whose house will they wake in? Not all of these are asked or delivered nicely!

There may be competition with present giving. There may be complications with wanting to take the kids away on holidays. Plus there are budget issues and potentially time alone. I’m sure you can add to the difficulties that arise at this time of year.

My family live interstate and when it was my ex’s turn for Christmas I had two choices: travel and celebrate with my family and miss seeing my kids for Christmas, or stay at home and see my kids for some of the day and spend the rest of the day alone.  Christmas can be a difficult time.

So with all that dross, how do you make Christmas the time of enjoyment and celebration that it is meant to be?

Reframe it.

Reframing is defined as ‘frame or express (words or a concept or plan) differently.’ 1Reframing is the art of changing how you think about something; putting a different meaning onto the same picture. It is reframing a problem or difficult situation into an opportunity.

So, in my example when the kids were going to spend Christmas with their dad’s family and I was going to spend time alone, I could say (and I did!), ‘Woe is me, I am so hard done by, I am spending part of Christmas alone, this is not how I wanted Christmas to be.’ I could reframe it saying,  ‘Isn’t it great the kids will spend part of Christmas with their dad and his extended family. This gives me time to do something different – child free.’

The ‘something different’ some years was having a meal with a friend and her large family who always welcomed me as part of their Christmas celebration. Another year it was getting together with a group of single mothers who were also child free and we enjoyed a meal of take away chicken and salads on the best china, no cooking and no kids interrupting the conversation. In all of this I can reframe my Christmas with the positive statement, ‘I don’t have to cook.’ I don’t enjoy cooking and I’m not very good at it – I have exploded a roast chicken.

Other ways to enjoy Christmas

Create new family traditions that don’t revolve around Christmas day such as looking at Christmas lights, attending a Christmas pageant, visiting Santa or attending community events. We would go to Carols by Candlelight in the local park, sit our chairs with friends and the kids would meet up with their friends from the local primary school. The kids were always excited when the notice and lights went up in the big pine tree in the park because it signalled the start of Christmas festivities.

You can develop a routine leading up to Christmas to create your family’s Christmas tradition which allows freedom for who the kids will be spending time with on Christmas day. Shared care on Christmas can be part of the tradition!

What have you done that creates a tradition or reframes Christmas? Please share you thoughts in the comments as this could help someone else.

Reminder: ‘what is best for the kids?’

Using the word ‘turn’ to describe who the kids will spend time with makes them sound like a pawn in a game, dehumanising the impact this has on their lives. It’s about us, the parent getting our needs met, not what is best for the children. We should consider them in our deliberations and conversations. See blog the one step in dealing with other parent

‘When dealing with a parenting partner, the golden rule is the children should be paramount in all considerations, with their welfare being of the utmost importance. Put the children first’.

Putting legs on it

Write down your thoughts about Christmas.  Now reframe them and tell yourself ‘the reframed story’ rather than the ‘woe is me’ one.

Do you want more than just to survive single parenting? Do you want to be your best and flourish as a family? Click here for ‘Successful Single Parenting’ chapter

University of the Sunshine Coast: reframing your thinking

For children’s books to support children in shared care arrangements (Christian content) ‘Caught in the Middle’ and ‘My two houses’ click here



Photo credit Jessica Ruscello


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