Many children this time of year are writing to Santa and asking for their favorite toys. Working with many teens and listening to the pain they feel especially at this time of year, I feel compelled to write a "Dear Santa" letter to parents from their teens and perhaps children younger than teens.
First, let me state that I work with many parents as well. Parents mean well; going through a family transition is so stressful and complex. Parents may lose their perspective through grief, through the new-found legal world they deal with and through being a single parent sometimes 24/7. I have tremendous respect for the courage, time and love they give and show to their children. However, we must also help parents better understand what they may be doing to hurt their children that they would want to know if they were informed.
I used to love Christmas, Kwanza and or Chanukah. Most of all, I loved our family together. Just the other day, I opened an old album of all of us at holiday time. I just burst out crying and sobbed and sobbed. "I know that I will never have that again, that is why I sobbed."
You can make it easier for me and my siblings by not fighting about which parent we will be with over the holidays and winter break. I love each of you and want to spend time with each of you but my holiday day will be ruined if I have to cut my time with one family to be with another. Could you please consider letting me spend time with one parent during one day and the next day with my other parent? Would you like to have one big meal at noon, then get in the car 2pm just when I am having fun with my cousins and then have another meal at 3pm?
Please let me contact my other parent on the holiday and don't stand over me. I want to be with you but being with you makes me feel sad that I am not with my other parent.
Please understand that we may feel differently right now. You may be really happy that you have moved on with your life. I may not be ready. I want you to be happy but I need time. I worry about my other parent, I still feel sad about the divorce and am not ready to hear about the fun you are having with your new significant other. More than anything, I need for you to spend time with me, to help me feel like I am #1 in your life. Spending time with me means really connecting with me and not texting your friends or checking your e-mails. Remember you used to make the best holiday breakfast? I would love to have that again!
The "first" holiday that we are not together as a family is difficult--painful. Let's make a deal that we will understand that and accept each other's feelings. I know I can't be happy all day. I will try my best to participate. If I am looking sad, I probably am and just an "I understand how you feel" would be great. Telling me to "put a smile on my face" like you did at Aunt Susan's birthday will not put a smile on my face.
I understand that you and my other parents have two homes now and twice as many expenses. Please don't tell me this all the time. I get that we can't get the same things we used to but please don't start telling me I won't be able to go to college or can't live like my friends do. I will be happy with anything you can and want to give me without rubbing the money part in my face. I would be happy if we could keep some of our old traditions like reading holiday stories together, making hot chocolate and just hugging each other good night.
Please also remember the best gift to me would be for you and my other parent to get along--not bad mouth each other, not tell me how bad the other parent is; that parent is also part of me.
I don't mean to hurt your feelings. I need your love and support and want you to know that I love you. It is really important for me to share my feelings with you. It took a lot for me to say this to you but I really want our relationship to work.