By Ann N Conway, MSW, LICSW
Dealing with Emotions
A divorce, in some ways, is comparable to a death. The relationship between the spouses dies, and in many respects, a significant part of the family life also dies.
Sometimes, one parent will assume that what the children need is a new approach to the holiday celebration. As Ann’s mother did, the parent may plan a trip for themselves and the children to someplace new, possibly some place exotic.
Holiday traditions are replaced by island tours or other tourist activities. It is as though they are trying to ignore their holiday traditions. Although this approach is well-intentioned, it is not really what the children need during this holiday transition year.
Based on her own personal experience as a young adult, and many years as a social worker helping parents and children deal with divorce, Ann believes a better approach is to try and maintain a sense of normalcy.
Maintain Family Traditions When Possible
Often, even the spouse who wants a divorce has some sadness at this time of the year and a sense of loss over the changing traditions. Communication between the parents about how to manage the holiday season is key. The two of them together can consider all the options.
The collaborative divorce process helps parents accomplish this and helps them make decisions based on the best interest of their children. If teenagers or young adult children are involved, they should be included in the conversation and their desires and plans should be considered.
Determine how to maintain traditions from the past. For example, if it has been a tradition to spend Christmas Eve with one spouse’s extended family, and Christmas Day with the other spouse’s, try to continue that this year at least for the children.
If the parents are comfortable with their feelings, they perhaps can arrange for the spouse who is alone to visit the other spouse and children. If a long visit seems like it could be disruptive, consider if it is possible for one parent to join the family at the other parent’s home for dessert.
Avoid Being Alone
It can be a lonely time when your children are with their other parent. This is a time to reach out to friends and relatives. Go for a walk. Work on a creative project you have been wanting to find time for. Make it a pleasant time for yourself and not a time to focus on the past, but to look forward to the future.
Ann Conway is a collaborative divorce coach and board member for the New Hampshire Collaborative Law Alliance. She assists divorcing couples in dealing with their feelings and in making plans for their future.
For parents with children, she helps the parents formulate a co-parenting plan. She now offers suggestions about how parents who are experiencing their first holiday season since their separation can make the time as pleasant for their children as possible.