Holidays are traditionally a time of celebration and reflection, spent with family and friends. However, if you are in the midst of a separation or divorce, holidays can be a source of extreme stress, especially for parents.
Many separated parents make an effort to put their differences aside over the holidays in the interest of making the season as enjoyable as possible for their children. For example, you may choose to celebrate Christmas morning with your children and ex-spouse. While we always encourage our clients put the interests of their children first and foremost, this can be a tricky situation, as it may dredge up emotional issues for both parents. The process of going through the motions of being a “happy family” often serves as a memory of what was and what was lost. Depending on the circumstances of your separation, you may find that unhealed emotional wounds or feelings of resentment make this charade too much to bear, even for the most dedicated of parents.
A common arrangement is for children to celebrate two holidays: one with mom and one with dad. This can be confusing, upsetting, and frustrating for children, especially during the first holiday after the separation. For parents, the task of splitting up time spent with children during holidays can be a source of tension and resentment.
What can you do to make the holiday season (as well as other holidays and birthdays) manageable?
1. Don’t take on more than you can handle. For example, if the thought of spending Christmas morning with your ex makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. Your children will sense it.
2. Talk to your children about your plans. Explain why the holiday will be different this year.
3. Try to remain flexible. Holidays are a busy time for everyone and unnecessary arguments with your ex-spouse will only make things worse.
4. Keep busy. Reach out to friends and family for support, especially if you’ll be spending the holidays alone.
For more information on separation, divorce, and other family law matters, please visit MyOntarioDivorce.com.