Divorce, Parenting & the Holidays

by Eileen M. Rowley

The end-of-year holidays are approaching. The holidays often emote strong feelings from individuals and parents on how they navigate through the difficult waters of family relationships. The holidays can bring up memories from childhood about not getting enough. Parents may want to protect their children and create for them something glorious. For blended families and those families that are in the early stages of separation, these times can be especially difficult.

The following ideas are offered.

Create New Traditions

Instead of focusing on what isn’t possible, begin by identifying the positive aspects of a situation, and build upon those aspects. Perhaps the new tradition includes a formal menorah lighting, a trip to another city, or an outing to a tree farm to cut a tree. It can also be an opportunity to refocus or reconnect with family relationships that have become frayed.

Can’t get everything you want in terms of holiday time? Think about negotiating for alternating years and staging that wondrous holiday next time.

Be Flexible

The easier you can make it for the other parent, the more you benefit. If you can’t get exactly what you want, get creative and look at other possibilities and alternatives and identify the benefits of those choices.

See the Situation From Your Child’s Perspective

Remember that the process that you are going through is very different from the process that your child is going through. Figure out what is most important from your child’s perspective and support those choices. What can happen between households to make your child feel more comfortable?

Children Benefit from Less Conflict

Sure, it is difficult to take the high road, and speak well of the other parent. It can be hard to avoid those explosive situations that expose children to harsh language, loud voices and anger. If you anticipate a difficult conversation, arrange a time with the other parent when the children are not around. Plan ahead with one another to develop a plan for what you will each do if the conversation gets out of hand. Some parents agree to shut things down and reconnect within 24 hours when they feel more resilient.

Take Care of Yourself

There is a reason the flight attendant instructs you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others. Be good to yourself by identifying what you need and how you can get your needs addressed. You can most help your child with their needs when you are at your best .

Let It Go

People only have power over you if you acknowledge and feed into the conflict. Think about how freeing it will feel to ignore getting drawn down into that negative energy. Ask yourself, “How much does this really matter to me and how much better would I feel if I just move on?”