The Gift of Togetherness: Happy Holidays after Divorce
If you’ve reached the point in your relationship where you can view your ex as human, begin with a phone call, suggests Robert Billingham, PhD, a professor of human development and family studies in the Department of Applied Health Science, at Indiana University, in Bloomington. “The very first step is to simply ask your ex. Don’t try to convince him or her,” he advises. “Just say, ‘This is something I would like to try this year.’ If there’s resistance or hostility, you can add, ‘We don’t have to do it; it was just an idea. Maybe at some point in the future we can give it a try.’”
Some people may reject the idea at first, then later experience an “Ah-hah” moment, Billingham says. “They say, ‘I need to do this.’”
Sometimes ex-spouses reach out to one another simple because they miss their children and stepchildren so much over the holidays. That was the experience of Jann Blackstone-Ford and her husband, Larry Ford, one Christmas morning.
Blackstone-Ford, of Discovery Bay, California, and her husband decided to show up on Ford’s ex-wife’s doorstep with trinkets designed for peacemaking. Sharyl Jupe—Ford’s ex—invited them for breakfast, launching a new holiday tradition of spending time together, says Blackstone-Ford, co-author, along with Jupe, of Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After a Divorce or Separation.
Continuing Old Traditions
Some divorced parents, like Blackstone-Ford and her husband, create new holiday traditions by joining forces with ex-spouses a few years after the divorce. Other parents simply continue their old holiday traditions, beginning immediately after their divorce or separation. This is a good idea, says Dr. Lexi Welanetz, a clinical psychologist and Director of the Family Resource Counseling Center in Los Angeles. “Especially in the beginning after a separation, it is important that some of the family traditions the children have come to expect are still celebrated,” he adds.
Mary Jane Gore of Charlottesville, Virginia, takes part in old holiday traditions with her children and husband, even though she and her spouse have been separated for two years. This year, she traveled to another state to spend Thanksgiving with her children, her estranged spouse, and his mother. On Christmas, her estranged husband has to work, so Gore will celebrate with him and their children on Dec. 23. What’s more, Gore and her husband live together in the same house on different floors—even though they’re now dating other people. “Life sometimes demands creative solutions,” explains Gore.
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