Don’t let family law issues stand in the way of a happy Thanksgiving

You likely need no reminder that Thanksgiving is this week. The holiday season that starts with Thanksgiving is supposed to be a happy time, and for the most part, it is. But there is also a lot of expectation and hype surrounding the holidays that can add layers of stress and disappointment.

If you have gone through a divorce, remarriage, separation or other family change in recent years, Thanksgiving can be a painful reminder of the way things used to be. You may be especially worried about disappointing your children or stepchildren. The good news is, you’re not alone! And the internet is full of sage advice from families who have been through this before.

Perhaps the most important things to keep in mind about the holidays are that attitudes are contagious and that rigid expectations may be a recipe for disappointment and resentment.

First, remember that families (biological or blended) tend to adopt the moods and attitudes of the parents. If you decide to make the day about fun, celebration and gratitude, this attitude will likely spread to your children or stepchildren. Conversely, if you focus only on what may be lacking, this mood is also likely to spread.

This coincides with the second piece of advice, which is that expectations about how the holidays “should” be are likely going to create resentments and disappointments. If you share child custody with your ex or if you don’t get along with your spouse’s ex, you may be more sensitive to perceived injustices on Thanksgiving.

Maybe the kids weren’t dropped off at your house on time. Maybe they don’t seem to be having as much fun with you as they supposedly did with their other parent. Maybe you only get a phone call with the kids on Thanksgiving because you have custody on a different holiday.

At the holidays, any one of these otherwise manageable snags might create a lot of anger and hostility. In light of this, it is especially important to keep expectations reasonable, to roll with the punches and to choose to have a good holiday in spite of factors beyond your control.

Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what we have, even when what we have isn’t perfect. If you’re worried about how your family law issues might affect your Thanksgiving, please take some time to emotionally plan ahead.

Source: The Huffington Post, “How to Have the Perfect Stepfamily Holiday,” Barbara Goldberg, Nov. 20, 2014

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