Christmas Truce: Arranging child custody during the holidays

Christmas truce

“A spirit stronger than war was at work that night December 1914 cold, clear and bright Countries’ borders were right out of sight When they joined together and decided not to fight All together now All together now All together now, in no man’s land”

The lyrics of the famous song by the Farm and the story of the 1914 Christmas truce it is based on, lend themselves as great advice for all divorced parents thinking about who their child(ren) will be spending the holidays with next month.


The 1914 Christmas Truce was a series of widespread, unofficial ceasefires that took place along the Western front around Christmas 1914, during World War I. It is seen as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity in the midst of one of the most violent events in history. Despite the ongoing violent conflict, soldiers from both sides managed to create a moment of peace to appreciate their humanity, Christmas carols and even a game of football!


It is common that divorced parents increase hostilities over the holiday period as they fight to determine with whom their child(ren) spends the holiday. While court proceedings are always an option, it is often similar to last minute Christmas shopping whereby the supply of judges are low and the last minute demand is great. That is why it is always better to emerge from your trenches holding a white flag to discuss an outcome that preserves the happiness of the holidays for your child(ren). Here are some quick ideas:


  • Arrange and agree on a solution well in advance. If things don’t work out, you will at least have sufficient time to take the issue to court. If it is already too late, consider letting your ex take the advantage this year in exchange for your advantage next year.
  • Arrange for your child(ren) to spend Christmas day with one parent and Boxing day with the other, and alternate every year.
  • As tempting as it may be, do not manipulate your child(ren) into wanting to stay with you longer than previously agreed by buying presents that are too impractical to take to your ex’s home.
  • Be flexible. Things never go as they are planned during the holidays as it is, so be prepared to allow for some leeway and/or don’t be enraged when your ex doesn’t follow the agreed schedule to the minute. This will win you credit for future arrangements and will preserve the seasonal pleasantry for your child(ren).
  • If you are both competing to be with your child at specific points during the holiday (e.g. Opening of presents on Christmas morning), consider laying down your arms and sharing that moment together with your ex.
  • Alternatively, consider organising a Skype conversation with your child for the moment you are missing and allow your ex to have one for the moment they are missing.


If the combatants of World War I managed to find peace for a moment despite the bloodshed of prior days, you and your ex can probably look to your child(ren) to quickly find the motivation for a momentary peaceful resolution.

For more general tips on managing divorce and children during the holidays check out Dr Robert Emery’s post in Psychology Today.

For more legal advice contact our divorce expert, Shakeela Bi.

The Needle BlogShakeela Bi