The holidays are over and I cannot face doing it again next year. My former spouse and I have been divorced for a few years. We decided at the time that we would continue to share the Christmas holiday and we have done so ever since. I hate this arrangement. It was made during the separation when I was feeling guilty I’d failed my kids. Instead of it being a happy time, I end up feeling angry and it takes all my energy to just get through the holiday. Every year it has become more difficult to continue this family tradition. What can I do?
Holidays are a stressful time no matter what the family arrangement. It seems that your holiday get-togethers might have worked for a time but now they don’t.
Holidays put enormous pressure on families. Even more so in your case because an agreement made several years ago just isn’t working anymore. If the holiday isn’t working for you, then admitting that is the first step to solving the problem.
First and foremost, don’t blame yourself. Often in divorce, we can feel coerced into agreeing to certain arrangements as the settlement is being sorted and then time and distance change our outlook. The New Year is a good time to do a review of holiday traditions and begin a discussion with your family.
In every family, traditions that once worked don’t after a time. It is always healthy to assess holiday traditions and create new ones if necessary. You may be surprised to find others in the family welcome a change.
You have several options. First, consider ways that would work for you to celebrate a family holiday. There might be several options.
The time after the holiday is usually less stressful and there is more time for a good discussion. You can speak to everyone individually if need be, but the pressure is off to make a quick decision.
Simply telling family members you would like to change the present family holiday arrangements is a starting point. If they ask why remember, ‘less is more’ in the details. Avoid any extreme language if possible. But be honest. You don’t like the present arrangement and it doesn’t work for you anymore and move the discussion on to what new possibilities could be considered.
You can put out some ideas and give your family members time to think about your preferred choices and then chat.
Time is on your side in the new year. Share the decision-making process and be prepared for some compromise. As this is all to make a more agreeable family holiday, determine what is your threshold for compromise. Traditions have a way of owning us instead of us being in control.
You might agree that doing one more holiday in the same arrangement is the answer. Rather than view it as an enormous burden- frame those hours as part of a whole year.
Be clear that after this year, the holiday will take a new form. Be firm in your expectations for change. Too often we do what we think other people want or expect us to do and sacrifice our own well being. It gives others too much power over our own lives. It’s OK to take care of yourself and your own emotional health.
Changing a family tradition often makes for difficult discussions because we hang so many expectations on holidays. It’s even more challenging because having the present arrangement has probably been something your children enjoy. However, your happiness is important too.
If a decision is made to change, then the New Year gives everyone a whole year to come to terms with the new family tradition. With love and consideration, you and your family can find a path forward that works for everyone.
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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.