My parents divorced when I was 12. And I'm just going to say what no divorced parent wants to hear, HOLIDAYS CAN REALLY SUCK FOR KIDS WHEN THEIR PARENTS ARE DIVORCED.
And not just when they're 12. [...]
I have grown, adult clients, friends, and family members who feel that the past circumstances surrounding their broken family during the Holidays have "tainted" or even "ruined" this time of year for them.
Many say it just brings back memories of never being able to please everyone.
**note to self...write post about the impossibility of pleasing everyone**
I remember in college LYING to both parents, telling them I was with the other and spending Christmas with my boyfriend's family. It just felt better there. And I didn't have to feel like I was CHOOSING one parent over the other.
It was seriously easier to choose neither. It feels terrible just to type that.
But here's the thing. I've read other "Divorced Parents' Holiday Guide" articles and I just feel like they're missing some pretty huge stuff. Most talk about the strategery (thanks, GWB for that word) involved with custody or when and how Santa comes, but I'd like to go deeper than that.
Here's the imperfect, incomplete (please comment below if you have something you'd like to add), list of SOME things I think might help your non-traditional family during the Holidays that I haven't seen in other lists! shew.
Don't mistake your child for your therapist. I get it. The thought of being without your child during the holidays STINKS. This part is not their business. Your child does not need to know how much their absence during this time PAINS you. Sure, this pain is probably a reflection of how much you love them, but kids have a way of making things their fault. And when I say things, I mean everything.
Burdening them with your emotional pain over a decision and a custody arrangement they have no control over puts kids in a lose-lose situation (they feel bad going away, but can't stay). This can cause a real negative emotional bind. Ti's the season to be merry, right?
Do smile, hope that they have the BEST time, and schedule some serious self-care for you; an appointment with your therapist or moaning session with a helpful, nonjudgmental friend, a massage, or even wrapping yourself in a big blanket and treating yourself like you would if you were sick. The grief is inevitable. Plan for the grief until you don't need to anymore. You deserve outrageous self-care.
Do find a pleasant way to spend your holiday! Telling your child how you "really didn't do anything fun" in their absence can lead to the child feeling like it's her fault you had a crappy holiday, and/or feeling guilt about the amount of fun she had at the other parent's house. I see kids ALL THE TIME who under-report fun times with the other parent because they don't want to hurt the present parent's feelings.
Don't think of fun and love like pie. Fun and love are not like pies. The more fun and love a child has at the other parent's house does not take away from your portion of fun and love. There are infinite supplies and sources of fun and love....unfortunately there is not infinite pie.
Don't OVERBUY out of guilt or competition. I totally remember feeling like I DEFINITELY got MORE STUFF once my parents divorced (jackpot!!), but I couldn't tell you today who got me the coolest, most expensive stuff. And in the end it made no impact on which parent I was closest to. In the long-run kids gravitate towards the person whom they feel the best around, not the person who gives them the most stuff.
Do find a way to harbor less anger and resentment for your ex....Or else take some acting classes to hide it better. There is nothing that disgusted me more as a child than 1 parent's disdain for the other. No matter how "right" or "justified", it still put my insides in knots.
Find a way to CHANGE YOUR MIND about the other person. Can you just see him or her on his own, drastically different path? That while she didn't, or won't do things your way that maybe this is just where they are in their learning and you can't expect her to be on your timetable?
Kids can learn AMAZING things from households that do things different ways. If I gave a person an apple who had never had a pineapple and asked her which she liked more she would probably answer with a lot of uncertainty.
One thing I notice about the adults I work with who've lived through their parents' divorce is that they can be VERY clear about what they do and don't want in their own families... Often MORE CLEAR than people who come from intact homes.
Do get your happy back. Listen up, people. The biggest gift you can give your child is your happiness. When you're truly happy, it's EASY to hear about other's success, fun and happiness. Kids can FEEL this. If you're not happy they may learn to 'dim their light' in your presence and correlate their brightness, boldness, happiness, or bigness with hurting others or taking something away from others (i.e., thinking of love and fun like a pie).
Start seeing every irritation you have as areas where you need to grow. Hearing of other people's fun trigger something negative in you? It might be a good sign that YOU need more fun.
If you want your kids to be bold, bright, big and happy you have to be able to hold the space for that, and what holds the space for this is your own well-being. The degree to which you can be really emotionally well will encourage and allow them to do the same.
And just in case you're STILL worried about your kids liking the other parent more.... Here's the truth for me: The parent I gravitate towards the most didn't spend the most time with me, buy me the most stuff, do the most things with me, or talk to me the most. It's the parent whose happiness didn't feel like it depended on me. The parent who talked the least about the other parent. The parent who could hear about my adventures when I was away and not treat fun and love like pie.
Happy holidays, to families of all kinds. XOXO,
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