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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Surviving the Post Divorce Single Parent Holiday


Holiday season is here again.  Funny how so many cluster around the same time of year...Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa….am I missing anything?    I have missed getting a few blogs up, for lots of reasons, but one of the main ones has been all the comings and goings related to the holidays.  Of all the times of year, I think this holiday season is the time when the impact of divorce is most keenly felt.

It is rather ironic that individuals in troubled marriages sometimes think that if they only get a divorce, it will solve all their problems, but afterwards discover that divorce often causes more problems than it solves. 

Mind if I illustrate, for those who haven’t been there and might not believe me?

Let’s use Christmas to illustrate.  Let’s assume there are children involved, with grandparents still living.  Let’s also assume that one of the parents is remarried.  Some families celebrate on Christmas Eve, some on Christmas Day, and some do special things in both times…which is my way of doing things.  Children are generally raised with one tradition or the other.  I have always kind of mixed my preferences.  I like to go to Christmas Eve services and do some fun things on Christmas Eve, but prefer to have a holiday dinner on Christmas Day.  

Then, when a divorce comes, the schedule changes.  Which house will the kids be at for Christmas, which for Christmas Eve?  Or will it all be at one place and the other parent need to celebrate on the weekend instead?  How does that impact the schedule for new children the couple might have…do those children have to miss special holiday traditions for the sake of a divorce induced schedule?  If all that works this year, what about next year…do you take turns?  Do you end up focusing on one time or the other?  Do you forego ever seeing your children on Christmas if you accept that Christmas Eve is the only time you have with them?  

Then, factor in the grandparents, supposing the divorced parent is one of several children.  Grandparents sometimes suffer much in a divorce:  not only do they see their beloved child suffering due to the heartaches of divorce, but they also experience a loss of opportunities to spend time with their grandchildren.  If their is to be a united family holiday then all the members, the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins must now orient the holiday celebrations around a shared custody schedule, which may change from year to year, and accept that the traditions of the past may not be possible.  

And then there are the gifts.  Is it possible to coordinate those, too?  

If every one knows little Johnny needs a new bike, who buys it?  The parent whose house he is at the most, or the other parent?  Does he take it back and forth, or have one at each place?  If you bought a really nice one, are you able to handle that he takes it to the other parent’s home when he returns, and you may never get to see him enjoy it?  Worse yet, what if you buy one, and the other parent decides to one up you by purchasing a fancier one, just to make Johnny think he is more loved there?  (It DOES happen!)  In addition, sometimes a parent will phrase things in such a way it turns the child against the other parent, which impacts relationships with grandparents as well.  It is just a messy situation all the way around.  

In addition, you may find Christmas difficult, because you are still paying on attorney fees, or because you are now attempting to manage a household on half the income, since your partner has left.  As you decorate for the holidays, you may run across ornaments or other decorations that bring tears to your eyes as you are flooded with memories that once were sweet but now taste bitter.  It may be that places you visit for the holidays create the same kind of mixed emotions.

Christmas is but one holiday.  Every interaction becomes complicated. 

One difficulty many single parents face is the fact that the divorced parents hold a different set of values and parenting styles.  As a result, there is not the unity of discipline that is so essential for good parenting.  The children of divorce are well aware of this.  

How many single parents hear, “I don’t have to make my bed at dad’s house!  Mom lets me stay up later than 9:00.  I don’t have to put up with not being allowed to play video games, I’m going to my dad’s house!”  

Or the most troubling words a parent might hear, “I want to move over to the other house.”

These are a few of the “solutions” that come with a divorce.  They are the kinds of stresses many divorced individuals have to deal with on a daily basis.  So, especially in this time of year, a few words of encouragement and support might be just the thing to lift the load for a struggling friend. 

If you are one who is in the midst of these struggles, realize that you are not alone…many of us understand what you are going through and how difficult it is.  Even in the midst of these heartaches, it is a good thing to recall the name celebrated of Jesus at this time of year:  Immanuel---God is with us!

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