The Gift of Togetherness: Happy Holidays after Divorce
On Christmas Eve this year, Brent Granger of New Albany, Indiana, will tip-toe into his ex-wife’s house while his two children are asleep and help her gather gifts tucked under beds and in closets. Together, the former spouses will assemble toys, wrap presents, and tweak the placement of Christmas tree ornaments; then Granger will sleep on the couch for the night. Come morning, he and his ex, Kelley, will wake the children together. They’ll open gifts and spend the day with their children, just as they have every year since their divorce three years ago.
“We’ve always had a tradition of waking up the kids on Christmas morning. That means so much to me,” says Granger. “And it means so much to the kids to see us getting along and being together.”
Like Brent and Kelley Granger, more and more divorced parents are choosing to spend special holiday occasions together with their children, either visiting Santa, exchanging gifts, sharing a Thanksgiving meal, or attending a holiday play, says Dr. Charles Sophy, a psychiatrist who serves as Medical Director for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
Helping Kids Feel Connected
By demonstrating such unity during the holiday season, parents can imbue children with that cozy feel of connection and teach them important life lessons, Dr. Sophy says. “The holiday message these parents can send to their children is tremendous,” he adds. “These parents are saying they can overcome their differences and be civil, in the best interest of the children. It’s a real gift to the kids.”
However, children only appreciate such “gifts” if the parents can get along, says C.T. O’Donnell, a psychologist and president and CEO of KidsPeace, an organization based in New York City (KidsPeace is dedicated to helping children overcome crisis). “If the parents argue, if negativity comes across, then I think it’s problematic. The kids will feel stressed,” he says.
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