As we head into a new year, there once again is renewed hope that we are finally ready to heal our collective wounds from this pandemic that has overstayed its time with us. For the recently separated or divorced, those newly empty seats that were seen around the table at the holidays resonated, making this time of year especially difficult. Like any other stressful experience, many have “white knuckled” their way through a divorce and have not been able to process their feelings of anger, sadness, frustration, and angst in a healthy way.
For the recently separated or divorced who have children, the holidays were an especially emotional time. We had grown accustomed to full family gatherings. Now, the children may have shuttled between two gatherings on the same night or perhaps split Christmas Eve/Day or the days of Channukah. As parents, we have our own emotions to contend with but also need to be attuned to our children who may be sad and act out because of a separation or divorce.
Even in the best of times, family dynamics can be fraught. At holiday time, emotions are heightened for myriad reasons, and when separation, divorce, or custody issues are thrown into the mix, this time of year can be challenging. This may be your first holiday sharing your children’s vacation time. Perhaps your communication with the other parent isn’t at its finest, or financial concerns are part of your new normal. All of these—on top of visiting relatives, travel arrangements and hectic schedules—can be anxiety-provoking.
We hope that the following suggestions will help you through the season and bring better communication in the New Year.
Avoid engaging in the “divorce war games” with one another. In the end, it’s the children who suffer, becoming collateral damage.
Forgo the “one-upsmanship.” Be mindful not to try to out-do the other parent with gifts or vacation plans. Your children are likely to feel torn, no matter their age.
Don’t go it alone. Give yourself the gift of some “centering.” Whether in the form of therapy, yoga, or a daily walk with a close friend, both you and your family will benefit.
Be flexible. Easily said, more difficult to do—especially if custody arrangements are relatively new. Try to take the pressure off of transition times. Your children will notice.
Show your children what the holidays really mean: They are all about giving. Ask your children to join you in a kind act for those less fortunate. It will divert your focus away from your own hurt or pain.
Make plans for 2017. Discuss what good will come after the holidays and let your children help schedule activities to look forward to.
Promote peace. No matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs may be, harmony is the ultimate goal, and it starts with you.
All of us at Blank Rome wish you a peaceful holiday season filled with opportunities to create new memories.