Dealing with Divorce during the holidays has its challenges not only for the adults, but for the children. They need to adjust to the holiday celebrations and schedules without their parents being together. Do what you can to make it easier for them, even if it means biting your tongue at times. Then when you look back on holidays, you will be proud of yourself for your healthy behavior. By maintaining control of your anger, sadness and resentment, you allow your children to build joyful memories plus you provide a great role model! Those are among the best gifts a parent can give!
To help you keep your perspective during this stressful time, here are some tips on taking the high road!
1. Money, gifts, sweets and indulging don’t “make up” for anything. Your child is going to have TWO Christmases. No need to feel guilty. Most kids say the dual holidays are the best thing about being a divorced kid.
2. If possible, make your plans with your ex-spouse ahead of time and stick to them. Let the kids know where they will be and when. It helps them feel in control. Let them make only age appropriate decisions. A good rule of thumb: if it is not a decision you would let your children make while you were married, then don’t let them make it now. Let your kids be kids.
3. Be flexible. No, this is not a contradiction of #2. It means that S—-T happens. So if your ex is two hours late because of an ice storm or because his cousin Joey showed up late, try to let it go.
4. Keep your anger, resentment, annoyance, disgust about your ex, his sports car, his/her new love and his family, to yourself. Remember, your kids are part of both of you and when you slam your child’s other parent, your child feels slammed as well.
5. Do not make your children responsible for your happiness. “Go have a good time with Dad in Jamaica, while I sit here miserable and all alone,” only breeds resentment and guilt in your child.
6. Don’t compete. If he can afford more than you – fine. Rather than resenting his/her father( or mother), appreciate that your child can experience things you can’t buy him/her. Don’t overspend to keep up. Make memories by doing fun things together – bake cookies, read a Christmas story, build a snowman. Money does not buy love.
7. The new girlfriend( or boyfriend) cannot and will not take your place. Children are unbelievably loyal. They can love many people, but the title and honor of parent is yours and will be only yours forever. So, relax. Deal with your jealousy without making your kid responsible for your feeling threatened. This is simply not the job of the child.
8. Divorce is the severing of the adult relationship and should not be the termination of the parent-child relationship, no matter how much you really can’t stand him/her. If your child is not in harm’s way, the relationship needs to continue. This is the CHILD’s right. If you really feel the child is in danger, then get a lawyer, prove it and have supervised visitation. Never keep a child from being with a parent based on your own feelings!
9. Lastly, remember that you are the adult. Suck up your anger toward your ex and make the holidays wonderful for your kids.
*A special note to those with adult children- afford them the same consideration as you would when they were small. Just because they are adults doesn’t mean they should be your confidantes or asked to act as “go betweens”. No matter how old your children are, they are still your “children”.
Next week: Guest Contributor Atty. Chip Mues offers his fun gift suggestions for the newly divorced person on your gift list!