It doesn’t take a divorce or co-parenting situation to make the holidays a challenging time for many—between work, social, and familial obligations, it can be incredibly stressful. But when those obligations also collide with conflict in relationships between family members, it can be even more difficult than you might expect.
My first experience with this didn’t actually come through divorce; it came after losing a close family member several months before the holidays. Then the lights went up, the garlands were hung, the radio turned its attention toward the spiritual and the memories came flooding back. I felt the loss of that loved one more keenly then than I had since the day I heard of their passing.
Divorce comes with its own grieving process and can be even more difficult to navigate. As a recently divorced father and someone who coaches fathers around the world, I understand how divorce can be especially difficult during the holidays. Regardless of whether the decision was made mutually or not everyone involved grieves the loss of the relationship, and that loss can easily be as intense as the loss of a loved one. When you have children, even more difficult factors come into play: Who will be there to put cookies out for Santa? Whose holiday dinner will they attend?
Each time you are faced with making a decision, and the need to speak to your co-parent to work out a compromise (not always easy when emotions on all sides may be running high), it feels like a fresh wound. There’s little that can ease the discomfort of working out these issues, but there are things you can do to survive and thrive in spite of the difficulties—ensuring that you and your loved ones are able to make the most of the holiday.
Be Present, Not Perfect
This can be the most difficult for a lot of us. You may find yourself justifying competitiveness because of how much you care for the family. It’s natural to want to give your children the best, the most, to be the best parent you can be—but those sentiments can be poisonous when you begin to compare yourself to others in ways that aren’t meaningful. In fact, stressing perfectionism almost always does more harm than good.
If you missed the boat on Black Friday, and you didn’t special order that perfect gift in time—you know what? That’s not what’s important about the holidays, and it’s not what you or your children will remember years from now. Being present during the time you spend with them is the ultimate gift.
Concentrate on being involved, on enjoying the times you’re spending together (even if it’s just over Skype!) and think about low stress ways to emphasize this priority. Don’t focus on imperfections or the times you’re apart.
Focusing on remaining present will also help you contain conflicts, because you’ll have your priorities in order, making it easier for everyone (including you!) to thrive during this most wonderful (no matter how stressful!) time of the year! End your holiday season and enter the New Year on a positive note, and don’t allow divorce to take you away from what matters most.
Meet the Author
Devon Bandison, MPA
High-Performance Coach, Speaker
Ph: 212 660 2950