The Gift of Togetherness: Happy Holidays after Divorce
Given the potential for such stress, parents who want to give their children a special gift of togetherness for the holidays ought to take a hard look at their ability to cooperate and behave in a civil manner. They should consider how they can best create that special sense of connection and family—whether it means embarking on a weeklong ski vacation together, taking part in a short gift exchange, sharing a cup of hot chocolate, or committing to being civil as they pass the children from “his” to “her” house.
This is all particularly relevant in the wake of recent findings reported in The Boston Globe. In what was called the “first ever national study,” the paper reports that “children of divorce tell us there’s no such thing as a ‘good’ divorce.” The study, a national phone survey of 1,500 young adults, half from divorced families and half from intact families, revealed that all divorce—amicable or otherwise—leaves a lasting conflict in children’s lives.
So, for parents who’ve tried to stay together, but just cannot make their marriage work, managing to come together post divorce in a civil manner—especially during the holiday season—can be incredibly helpful for children of all ages. Of course, for some families, this may be easier said than done.
“Like a lot of things in life, it comes down to the individual parents and children,” says O’Donnell. “Some parents are mature enough to handle a situation like this and convert it into a good experience for the kids. A number of divorced parents also can cordially get along for short periods of time and do something that’s meaningful for the children.”
Making Arrangements with Your Ex
If you’re a divorced parent who wants to do something meaningful for your children over the holidays, but have never tried to spend time with your ex, you’ll first need to understand the importance of completing the “emotional divorce,” offers Margorie Engel, president and CEO of the Stepfamily Association of America.
People often begin to feel more comfortable with their ex-spouse if they have emotionally let go of them. In this case, contact with a former spouse ignites less anger and jealousy, Engle explains. And parents often feel better about spending time with their ex-spouse if they realize their ex is indeed only human. “You should be able to eyeball your ex, and see that he or she doesn’t have horns and two heads. If former spouses are viewed as human, it tends to diffuse a lot of stuff,” Engle adds.
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