Fathering

Holiday Stress and Family Divorce

The holidays will be different for many children who are adjusting to their parents’ divorce. What once was, is no more. In the midst of their “new normal,” now they must learn how to deal with dividing the holidays between two parents. And, it isn’t just the kids who will be experiencing stress.

“I think it is critical for newly-divorced parents to anticipate the added emotional strain the holidays can present for both themselves and their children and prepare accordingly,” says Dr. Susan Hickman, local psychologist. “First and foremost, parents must remember that it is their role to provide emotional support for their children, not vice versa. Unfortunately, too many parents look to their children, rather than to other appropriate adults, for emotional support, love and/or validation.”

Rarely does everything go according to plan. Maybe the children aren’t picked up or returned at the agreed upon time, they forget their favorite teddy bear or somebody says something hurtful, resulting in a meltdown along the way.

“The likelihood of this happening is great because favorite routines that are so easily remembered have gone away and truth be told, everybody still longs for them,” Hickman says. “Nothing is as it was, and with this realization comes sadness and perhaps anger – especially during the holidays, when family time is viewed as more sacred. Understanding these sensitivities and the reasons for them is the first step in not allowing the stress to spiral out of control.”

In preparation for dealing with the holidays constructively, Hickman makes the following suggestions:

“There will likely be some tough moments this holiday season,” Hickman says. “Don’t let this daunt your enthusiasm. Your willingness to move ahead sends the message that life can be lived fully, happily and hopefully despite unexpected loss. This is the real message of the season: Hope, joy and peace.”

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