Dealing with divorce, the holidays and stress

For divorced parents the holidays can be particularly frustrating. And while it may be tempting to hold on to hurt feelings and animosity, these reactions between parents often make kids feel like they have to pick sides between their parents.

However, according to family therapist Marie Hartwell-Walker, the holidays do not need to be a negative experience, and in fact can be quite positive and show children that there is no need to choose a side after a divorce, and that both parents still equally love them.

The No. 1 key to taking the stress out of a divorced family’s holiday is for the parents to be flexible, Hartwell-Walker said. This means remembering holidays do not fall on just one day, but instead include an entire month and a half where memories can be created. Maybe this means that instead of fighting over who gets the children on the exact holiday, parents are flexible and realize that individual family holiday time is just as important all throughout the season. Basically, don’t get hung up on just the one day.

Along the same lines of flexibility, it’s also important to be accepting of who is now included in family celebrations. Maybe an ex-spouse has a new boyfriend? Or maybe an ex-mother-in-law really wants to continue to spend time with the kids on Christmas? Whatever the situations are, when parents are nice to each other and accepting of what the new reality of family is, their children end up benefitting as they feel comfortable and reassured on what their idea of family is.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Divorced Parenting During the Holiday Season: Flexibility is the key,” Marie Hartwell-Walker, Nov. 15, 2011

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