For children of divorce, spending Christmas with parents in conflict is like you winning an all-paid-for holiday to an amazing destination to stay in one of the most fabulous 5 star hotels…that is under going extensive renovations.
Everything is great about the whole idea, except that you will certainly not find peace and tranquility and that defeats the whole purpose.
Forget about lying by the pool for hours on end, with your cocktails, books and magazines; it’s shut.
There will be early morning drilling sounds, trucks all over the place and limited use of the great facilities that the place usually has to offer. Before you know it, you want to spend the rest of your holiday, outside the hotel, only returning to go to bed.
That’s what it’s like for children whose parents are going through an acrimonious divorce and/or separation during this time of year.
They will get the most fabulous presents that you can afford but their joy, excitement and delight will be short lived and blanketed in worry, uncertainty and uneasiness. And if they are anything like some clients I have worked with, some gifts will act as reminders of the very difficult Christmases they lived through in their childhood for years to come.
If this is your first Christmas as divorcing or separating parents, there’s one thing your children could greatly do with and benefit from.
And this you can gift them by:
- letting them be. Let them wake up and sleep through these holidays stress free. Yes, it’s not easy for you as the divorcing or separating parents to do, but it’s not impossible either. You can do it for them, if you really want to. Allow them to enjoy their holidays without conflict, anxieties and worries.
- creating a good structured plan that you can share with them so that they know where they will be, with whom and for how long. One father in mediation recently agreed for his ex-wife to have the children from 23th – 27th December. He explained his decision by saying that it really didn’t matter which day you spend Christmas with your children; all they need is to be with you at some point and on that day, at that time, you can celebrate Christmas, as you choose and wish, in peace. They don’t care if you do it on 25th or on 30th. He’s absolutely correct. They don’t care.
- sticking to the plan and should you need to change the plans for good, legitimate and genuine reasons, not just because you’re angry and riddled with vengeful thoughts and emotions, then tell them in advance and acknowledge any feelings of disappointment they may have or show. Be the adult in the room that they need you to be. Because after all, they only have you two as parents. Which one of you will ensure that their holidays go as smoothly as possible?
Clients I have worked with, have often asked me what my co-parenting plan over the Christmas period looks like.
We chose to make it really simple for the children and ourselves. We alternate every year from 23rd to the new year. This means that each year either one of us has the children for a good block of time which allows us to travel abroad if we choose to.
During the time that they are away, the children get to speak with the “absent” parent almost everyday, over Skype, phone, whatsapp or Facetime. We share stories of what we have done and our plans for the next few days.
This means that our children know exactly what they are doing, with whom, where and for how long. This structure has remained in place since my eldest daughter was 6 and she is now 25. It just works.
Of course it’s not easy for the parent without the children.
You will miss them but all you have to do is plan out your time. If you feel that you will be lonely, sad and upset without them. Then you will really need to deal with that without sharing it with the children. They don’t need to be worrying about you. Let them be. You do you.
If you’re stuck with how to manage these holidays for you and your little ones, then do contact me and let’s take it from there. It really needn’t be hell.
Soila is a Parenting Therapist, accredited Triple P practitioner, Certified Trauma Specialist and trained Family Mediator. She works in private practice mainly, but not exclusively, with families going through divorce and separation.