Parenting Over The Holidays If You Are Separated Or Divorced

                Deck the halls with boughs of holly…

                I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me…

                Silent night, holy night…

                Dancing around the Christmas tree…

                Hearing these Christmas carols or seeing other signs of the holiday can make you feel like someone just punched you in the gut if you are going through a custody battle or dealing with a break-up you did not want.  Instead of putting up a tree, drinking egg nog in front of the fireplace, and sending out holiday cards, you may feel like everyone in the world is enjoying the season except you.

                Actually, if you feel bad, just think about your kids. What they want for Christmas this year is probably for their parents to get back together.  That may be exactly what you want also.

                The fact is that the holidays are often a time when reality “hits” you.  You may have gotten your judgment of divorce or custody order months ago (or even years ago), but that’s not enough to prepare you for a season when everyone seems to be holding hands and celebrating yet another year together.

                There actually is help for this.  First of all, you have to realize that you are not in the same home.  You will not be seeing the same people.  You won’t have all the things you had before.  This year is different in many ways.

                On the other hand, you have to get a grip.  You did not die last year.  You undoubtedly have a home.   You did not have to live through the tragedy in Paris or in Syria or in Iraq.  If you are reading this, you are not blind like newly elected Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein.  If you have children, you are lucky.  Many people who want children cannot have them, and some people who once had children had to bury them.  The holidays are not just about making a Christmas list of things that you want and don’t have.  It’s an extension of Thanksgiving when we give thanks for what we already have.  When you look at it like that, you have much to be thankful for.

                Beyond that, you need to recognize that while old traditions may be gone, there is no reason you can’t start new ones.  You can spend this holiday at a get-away instead of at home.  You and your children can go skiing or go to Florida.  Instead of a 6’ tree in the foyer, you can get some holiday flowers and smaller decorations.  You can invite friends over for a brunch at your new place on the Sunday after Christmas and find something good to cook for them.  You can volunteer to help others over the holiday or just adopt a family this year.  You can decide that this year, you’re actually going to go to some services at your church or your temple and try to soak in the message of the holiday. 

                What you should NOT DO is have a big pity party.  If you are worried that no one will invite you to a New Year Eve’s party, then throw one yourself and invite others.  If you still don’t have plans for New Year’s Eve, offer to volunteer at the hospital or at a nursing home.  You will soon find out that if you can plan something fun or manage to put a smile on your face, you’ll be invited back—and people will smile back.

                You are a model for your children.  If you find a way to tell them this year how important they are to you (and show them that their lives will continue on…and they will continue to have both parents in their lives), you will have given your children the best gift there is.   

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The road to becoming an attorney (especially one who handles many family law cases) has been a true journey for me. I grew up in Highland Park, MI—which, back then, was a tree-lined city with the first community college in Michigan and a very progr… Read More

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