JLJ Family Law » Posts in 'Holidays' category

“Top Ten Ways to Survive the Holidays During and After Divorce”

Author: Shellee Darnell, M.F.C.C.

Coping with separation, divorce and loss is MAGNIFIED as the holiday season approaches. Many people feel overwhelmed by the stress and strain of trying to maintain the status quo, when in fact, their entire world is collapsing around them. The Holiday season serves as a constant reminder of festive, happier times and is contrasted by the stark reality of loneliness and despair. While others are eagerly anticipating the holidays, a newly separated or divorced person often approaches this time of year with panic, sadness, and dread. Although there are no magical solutions to cure the holiday blues, there are things you can do to make it easier to cope.

Plan Ahead - Plan to do something that is fun, relaxing, and as stress free as possible with people you really care about. If the holidays are just too painful and the reminders are everywhere, consider a vacation that allows you to “escape” the painful triggers.

Create new rituals and family traditions – While you may want to hold on to some of the past traditions, it’s a good idea to create some new rituals with friends and family. (Consider an alternative day, time, place, etc.)

Reassure kids that holiday celebrations will continue, just in a different way - Children can help create some of the new holiday rituals and traditions. Take time to brainstorm with your children about new ideas for celebrating.

Ask if you are acting “in the best interest of the child” - Decide ahead of time how holidays will be divided. Reassure kids that you will be OK while they are with the other parent. Remember, tired kids will be stressed out and cranky, so plan according to their ages and ability to adjust. Keep the arrangements as simple as possible.

Make a schedule – Make a list of everything you need to do for the holidays and a target date to accomplish your goals. This will help you to feel more in control and less stressed. Delegate tasks appropriately.

Ask for help from supportive family and friends - Rely on a healthy support system if you are feeling isolated, lonely or depressed. Tell your support people what you need from them (companionship, understanding, compassion, listening, etc.)

Be realistic – “Picture perfect” holidays are usually just an illusion. Have realistic expectations about the holiday season, especially the first year.

Take care of yourself – Get the proper amount of sleep and exercise and eat healthy in order to maximize your ability to cope. It’s easy to overeat or party too much to medicate your pain, but in the long run, it creates more problems.

Schedule time for rest, relaxation and nurturing - Give yourself a break. You deserve it!

One day at a time, one holiday at a time - It will get easier. It will get better. It will hurt less. Right now, just concentrate on one thing at a time!

If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or stuck, get professional help. Therapy can provide a safe, supportive environment in which you can gain insight, learn problem solving skills and find solutions to dealing with the anger and pain of separation and divorce.

As seen on DivorceWizards.com

For more information, visit www.aj-familylaw.com

“Holidays and Divorce – Coping When You’re Home Alone for the Holidays”

Author: WomansDivorce.com

If you share holidays with your ex, you may be facing a holiday alone this season without your child. It can be difficult to be separated from your child, but you can get through the holiday with these guidelines:

Talk to your child - Make sure your child understands where he or she will be spending the holiday. Mark the plans on a calendar so that the schedule is solid in your child’s eyes. Explain to your child that you will miss him or her while he/she is with the other parent on the holiday, but point out that you’re happy that he/she will be having fun and want him/her to have a good time. While it’s important to be honest with your child, it is equally important that you not burden him or her with the responsibility for your happiness. Don’t tell your child that you will be miserable, lonely, in tears or completely depressed while he or she is with the other parent. It’s ok to say you will miss him or her, but follow this statement with reassurances that you’ll be together again soon.

Make plans with your child - Plan out with your child when you will celebrate the holiday together. It’s not important what you do or when you do it, as long as you plan a way for you and your child to celebrate the holiday together in some way the next time you are together. This will help your child feel confident that both parents are truly a part of his or her life and will give you something to plan for and look forward to.

Consider holidays together - Some parents find that in the first few years after a divorce, it works best if they spend important holidays together with their child (for example, having the non-custodial parent come over to spend Christmas morning with the custodial parent and child). If you think this option would work for you, try it.

Touch base - Plan to have some kind of contact with your child on the holiday itself. Call him or her on the phone or even to stop by for a quick hug and kiss on the other parent’s front porch (if you and the other parent agree this will not make your child upset). Making contact with your child on the holiday itself will not only help your child cope, but will help ease your own feelings of loneliness.

Make plans for yourself - The key to getting through a major holiday without your child is to plan ahead for it. If your family celebrates together for this holiday, get involved in planning the event and look forward to spending the day with them. Plan a get together with friends or spend the day wrapping gifts for your child. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you plan something out.

Think about what you want - Give some thought to what you really want to get out of this holiday. Are there things you have always wanted to do, but have never been able to? Maybe you’ve always wanted to go to a football game on Thanksgiving Day, perhaps you always dreamed of caroling on Christmas Eve or hoped to host a Kwanzaa feast. Now is your chance to fulfill your holiday wish list.

Filling Alone Time - Even if you’ll be attending a party or hosting some kind of event, there will be some time on the holiday when you will be alone and if you have no plans, the day may loom long and empty before you. Take some time before the day comes around to plan out some things you can do on your own. Look around your community for events celebrating the holiday – church services, community get-togethers, civic events, single parent gatherings and so on. Don’t be afraid to go alone – there are a lot of other parents who are also alone on holidays.

If your day still looks wide open, make a list of things you can do just by yourself. These don’t have to be earth-shattering, spectacular plans. Anything that makes you happy and gives you something to do works. Try some of these suggestions:

- take a long walk alone

- buy a special meal to have alone at home

- cook a special meal for yourself

- go to a movie

- read a good book

- rent videos

- give yourself a home beauty treatment

- buy yourself something you’ve been wanting and wrap it up for yourself to unwrap

- get a big project done around the house, such as painting or wallpapering

- organize your photographs or make scrapbooks

- clean out your closets or basement

- get a big project done for work

- give some time to a local charity

- stay in bed all day

- go away for the day or the weekend to someplace you’ve always wanted to visit

- chat online with other parents who are alone

- create something special to surprise your child (cookies, a mural, a fort in the backyard)

- start a new hobby (start knitting, hit some golf balls, make wreaths, build model airplanes)

The key to remember is that you can get through a holiday alone and that real holidays with your child happen when you make them.

As seen on WomansDivorce.com

For information on Family Law Solutions, visit www.aj-familylaw.com

Holidays After Divorce

Author: E.R. Reid

Divorce. I have been there and done that, along with 19 million other adults in this country. Although it has lost some of its stigma over the years, divorce hasn’t lost any of its heartache. As a divorced parent, nothing is more heart breaking than watching the impact of divorce on your children. They are usually the last to know and the most affected.

But even more painful is the first time you have to spend a holiday apart from your children. As busy professionals, a holiday is one of the few times we can break the routine and spend significant quality time with our loved ones. Having to forfeit this time with my children was, for me, strange and empty (sad is an understatement).

What’s a Working Parent to Do?

So how can we minimize the pain and make the holidays most enjoyable for our children and ourselves? As a corporate strategist, my success comes from knowing how to see issues from my client’s perspective. As a parent, I needed to do the same thing for my children. Having observed both healthy and unhealthy post-divorce families, my suggestions are derived from seeing divorce from a child’s point of view. The key thing to remember is that we divorced our spouses but not our children. Efforts should be made to ensure their happiness, which in turn will help ensure our own.

Keep It Simple

Divorce is traumatic enough for children without adding unnecessary complexity to their schedule. Decide early on who will take the children on which holiday, and avoid splitting the day (one of you has them in the morning and one in the evening). Splitting the day is disruptive to everyone’s celebration because the anticipation of knowing you have to go somewhere else makes it hard to enjoy the few hours you do have together.

It’s highly recommended that if you have two or more children you don’t split them up. Whether they express it or not, children support and comfort each other. Splitting them decreases their sense of security and connection.

A phone call in the morning to say hello and wish them a great day is a must to help them feel OK about being away from you for that special day. But don’t lay guilt on the children by telling them how much you wish they could be with you instead. Just wish them a great time and tell them you look forward to seeing them when they return again.

Most important is that both parents send a consistent message to the children that the holidays are still a special and great time of year even though both parents won’t be sharing it together.

Your Child Is Watching, Listening and Responding!

Our children learn culture, character and esteem from us. They take cues about what is acceptable from what we do, not necessarily from what we say. The way you handle yourself and your relationship with your former spouse will be the way your children learn to handle complex issues and relationships in their own lives.

So even after the holiday move forward productively by bagging the bitterness! Instead, focus on taking away helpful lessons from your marriage experience. Then, use this new knowledge to become better. Despite the reasons you divorced, your mental attitude is critical to not only surviving, but thriving as a family. If you have the right mindset, then you can feel confident that you and your children will be all right.

Take Care of Yourself

If you are not with your children this holiday, make sure you spend the day with supportive family and/or friends. Avoid “the downers” as I like to call them, which are friends who speak negatively to you about your ex-spouse in order to arouse your anger. Spend time with those that love you and want to help you move on by giving you new and better things to talk about.

As seen on PreschoolersToday.com.

For more information on family law solutions, visit www.aj-familylaw.com

Children, Divorce and the Holidays – How to Make the Best of a Stressful Time

Author: Donna F. Ferber, M.A., C.A.C.

The holiday season conjures up many images for all of us. The most universal of these images is one that includes happy excited children. However, for children from divorced or separated families, the holidays can be a nightmare. What other children may experience as a joyful time filled with excitement and good feelings, children whose parents are divorced or separated see quite differently. Often the holiday time marks a period of turmoil and chaos, as the estranged parents are forced to negotiate additional child centered issues. Depending on the degree of hostility between the parents, children of divorce approach the holidays with feelings ranging from mild ambivalence to absolute dread. This article will explore what children of divorce experience at holiday time with a focus on holiday visitation, parents’ legal rights and ways that parents can help ease the pain and reduce conflict so the holidays can be enjoyed by all.

First, regardless of financial or marital status, we all experience stress around the holidays. We spend too much, eat too much, party too much and always seem to have too little money, too little sleep, and too little time. It is important to recognize that most people feel inadequate around the holidays.

Second, regardless of how good the relationship is between the divorced or separated parents, children and their parents always experience some sadness around the holidays. After all, the holidays are a time for reminiscing and reassessing our lives. The divorced or separated family is always aware of the pain it has suffered and the holidays magnify this pain. Reminiscing is part of the holiday tradition, as we remember holidays gone by with stories or browsing through the family album. For the divorced or separated family this experience is bittersweet, as they reassess how it “used to be.”

Third, we have unrealistic expectations. This result is the “post holiday blues” many of us experience in January. We expect more from ourselves and others than is possible, so we feel let down and disappointed.

Fourth, the ability of the children to adjust not just to the holiday visitation schedule, but to the divorce or separation, in general is directly effected by how well the parents have learned to adjust to their new roles as ex-spouses and co-parents. The above four issues give insight into what parents need to do, regarding their children.

Each holiday exists for a limited number of hours. Because parents are divorced or separated does not mean that the amount of holiday time available, doubles. In reality, it means that each parent now only has half the time with the child that they had before. Recognizing that reality is primary in negotiating visitation time.

The bad news for the children is that they are forced to divide their time between two families. The good news is that they experience two celebrations. From the child’s point of view this may sound like a lot of un and it can be, provided, that the parents set realistic expectations and don’t try to outdo each other or buy the child. Many non-custodial parents feel that they have to make up for their absence by indulging the child’s every whim. This is unhealthy parenting. The Disney Land parent will grow to resent it and your child will test your boundaries and try to take advantage. If possible, discuss with your ex-spouse your child’s gift list and divide the list, rather than duplicate it. Competing for your child’s love and loyalty only confuses the child. The best gift you can give your children this holiday season is permission to love both parents.

Some families avoid splitting the holidays, agree that the children will spend Christmas Eve with one parent and Christmas day with the other. Many divorce decrees provide that parents alternate major holidays yearly. This gives both parents the opportunity to celebrate with the children and avoids rushing the children to two holiday diners. Some families choose to celebrate Christmas Eve and the other parents Christmas Day. Remember holidays are about families and good feelings not the day the calendar dictates. In reality every day should be a holiday!

Older children are not immune to this stress. Children who live on their own may find it difficult to choose where to go and when. Young adults returning home for the holidays have the additional stress of wanting to spend time with their friends. Recently, a young couple, who were married within the last year saw a therapist to negotiate holidays. Both sets of parents were divorced and remarried. They were caught in the trap of negotiating four sets of parents not to mention grandparents. Trying to please their parents, each other and themselves was putting stress on their marriage. They decided to rotate holidays, rather than try to see everyone on every holiday. Now instead of spending holidays driving all over the state, worrying about where they had to be next, they were able to relax and enjoy their time with all members of their families.

For younger children, the decision of where to go, and when should be decided by the parents. Having to choose to spend time with one parent, over the other is a tremendous burden for the child, which may result in the child feeling guilty. It also gives the child more power than is appropriate. Your child does not decide whether he/she wants to go to school, but he/she may decide what to wear. Age-appropriate responsibilities enhance children’s self esteem and confidence. Frequently divorced families fall into the trap of giving the children more power than is appropriate. To avoid this, make sure you have a support system you can turn to for advice and encouragement. One of the most difficult aspects of single parenting is not having another adult in the house to offer support and validation.

Divorcing parents are advised to determine where the children will celebrate, in writing, with the assistance of their divorce lawyers. This will prevent parental arguments and involvement of the children. The scheduling of holiday celebrations can be done creatively to fit each couple’s unique situation. Parents can alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas, or Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, or allow the parent not having Christmas, the week between Christmas and New Years. It is important to put the agreement in writing to avoid misunderstandings and reneging on the part of either party.

Holidays are a mixed blessing. If we set realistic expectations, focus on the needs of the children, develop a good support system, and take care of ourselves both emotionally and physically, this time of year can be joyful and fulfilling regardless of our individual family structure. Best wishes for a peaceful and happy holiday season!

As seen on DivorceSource.com

For more information on family law solutions, visit www.aj-familylaw.com.