The Christmas period can be stressful at the best of times, but when it is also necessary to agree child contact arrangements, separated parents can find themselves approaching the festive period with dread.

Many of us will despair when we see Christmas decorations being put up in shops and advent calendars for sale as early as October – with nearly 3 months to go until Christmas! However, when it comes to child arrangements, early preparation for the festive period is key.

If there is no court order in place setting out Christmas contact arrangements, you should approach the subject with your ex-partner as early as possible with a view to reaching agreement as to who the children will spend Christmas Day with as well as arrangements for the surrounding period.

There is no hard and fast rule in terms of holiday arrangements and every family is different. An arrangement that works well for some may not work at all for others. It is therefore extremely important that separated parents engage in a dialogue at an early stage so that they can reach an agreement that works best for them.

Further, if you have a particularly difficult relationship with your ex-partner and/or there is disagreement as to contact arrangements, try to remain positive and encouraging in front of the children, especially as they may already be feeling more anxious in the build up to Christmas as they adjust to dividing their time between their parents.

Whilst it is preferable to have an agreement in place well in advance of Christmas, you should also be prepared, closer to the time, to be flexible and willing to compromise. This includes making provision for contingencies, for example bad weather, traffic and illnesses.