I don’t know if I can do it. There is so much written about abusive men, but I was the victim in our marriage and left my wife right after the new year last January. It has not been an easy year and now she wants to share Christmas and our kids want us to make a plan and get organized so we can do it. How do I manage this? I love my kids but I can’t pretend anything with my former wife. I do not want to stay with them on Christmas Eve. We share custody in a co-parenting arrangement that has worked through the lockdown. Without disappointing my kids, what can I do?
First of all, you need to remember, you have a voice and a choice in the matter. You have mentioned what your former wife and your children want but what arrangement would work for you?
The very first thing you need to do is decide exactly what plan feels most comfortable. You have said you don’t want to stay overnight Christmas Eve but would you open presents together Christmas morning? Is this possible?
The focus should be on your children and not on your former wife with everyone prepared to be flexible with the plans. It is not the time to bring up old wounds or argue. It has already been a stressful year in so many ways. Aim for neutral in every dealing with her if you can.
Try to collaborate on gift-giving for your children. It would not be helpful to attempt to overshadow each other’s gifts for your kids. Can you have a conversation about gift decisions? Think about your own gift ideas before the conversation and negotiate. An abundance of gifts or extravagance does not fix anything and sets a precedent that can get out of control in the coming years.
Talk to your children about the options you feel are acceptable for holiday plans. You can arrive early Christmas morning and not miss any of the excitement. If you feel a whole day is not manageable, then leave for a few hours and come back to have a meal together.
If that feels like too much then talk to your kids about doing your own Christmas morning. Your former wife can do presents and a meal with them one day and you can do the same thing the next day. Without oversharing, be honest with them when explaining your decisions.
This is the first Christmas apart and new traditions will need to be created. Because it is the first Christmas after the separation it is also the biggest challenge. Remind your kids how much they are loved and that the holiday is a chance for some new beginnings.
Remember that children often feel it was their fault the marriage ended. They need to feel secure and loved and maintaining some civility with your former wife over the holiday is one step toward that goal. Be honest with them that you are doing the very best you can to make the holiday work. If you can think of a good idea together, start a brand-new tradition with your kids, one this is just yours.
Every family member sees the change in a different way and that means extended family and friends will all have opinions about what is the best choice. Be open with them about your choices and ask for their support. If anyone gets a little overzealous with advice, ask them to wait till the new year for those heavy discussions.
Make time for yourself through the holiday. Divorce recovery takes time and recovering from an abusive relationship requires even more attention. If you haven’t already, think about some counseling. Start with your family doctor for suggestions and go from there. A good counselor should offer a feeling of safety and trust. Make a choice that works for you.
Christmas holidays are the most pressured time of year. Emotions run high under normal circumstances. A divorce and a pandemic are enormous challenges to tackle. Keep your expectations in check.
It will not all go according to plan so best be prepared for some compromise and some disappointment. The goal is to get through the holiday with your children feeling a level of happiness, you feel that your voice was heard, and that the plans worked reasonably well.
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ABOUT LINDA SIMPSON
“I take strength from your calm, your honesty, and the hope you give me for my future.” Cheryl
Linda is a fresh voice in the divorce advice world. She offers a pragmatic, common sense approach to life after divorce issues based on over twenty years surviving and thriving following a very traumatic divorce.
As a single parent, her sons are an enormous source of joy in her life. She is a loving mother and grandmother to four delightful grandchildren.
She holds a degree from the University of Waterloo with concentrations in sociology and philosophy and guidance counselling certification from Queen’s University.
She is an accredited trainer for The Peace Education Foundation, a leader in conflict resolution training. The institute is ‘dedicated to educating children and adults in the dynamics of conflict resolution and promoting peacemaking skills in home, schools, and community.’
In a long and successful teaching career, she also served as a counsellor and workshop facilitator for SEL (social emotional learning) programming and The Peace Education Foundation throughout her school and school district and was a frequent conference presenter for SUNY Potsdam Faculty of Education USA.
She writes for The Divorce Magazine UK and her blog is seen regularly on Huffington Post Canada where the focus is life after divorce and parenting issues.
She is a writer and poet and is presently at work on a book based on her divorce experience.