Christmas can be tough following a divorce. If you are single, then you may find yourself alone during a very vulnerable and emotional time. I know, because I was there. I will never forget my first Christmas Eve service at church without my children almost ten years ago. It was a baptism service which made it even harder for me. As we sang Silent Night in the candlelight, tears streamed silently down my face.
Things have certainly improved since then and I am thankful that I have been blessed with an amazing husband and two wonderful step-children who God clearly handpicked for my children and me. The week before Christmas is not quite as lonely as it used to be while my kids are at their dad's house.
Emotions run high around the holidays and co-parenting can be even more difficult when emotions are out of control. As I have said numerous times on my blog, when emotions are high, reason is gone. This can create a very tense and anxiety filled environment for your children during a time that should be happy and carefree.
So here is my Christmas Wish List for Divorced Families for this holiday season:
Have faith that even if you and your former spouse have a high conflict relationship that you can put the anger aside for your children for the holidays. Because of the distrust present after divorce, you may expect the worst from your ex, but I pray that you will try to remain positive and hope for the best. You cared enough for this person at one time to have children together, so keep the faith that you each can step up and be the people your children need you to be. Your children need you to put aside your feelings and focus solely on their feelings and needs over the holidays.
Try your hardest to find the joy in the season. So many people during the holidays complain about the crowds and the urgency and rush of everything rather than focusing on what they can do to bring joy to others. Having a blended family can cause more of an upheaval because you may have different kids going different ways. Missing your children can cause you to focus solely on yourself, but try to think of things you can participate in that will bring joy to others which will ultimately bring joy into your own heart. Help at a food kitchen, adopt a family for Christmas or ring the Salvation Army bell. Don't allow anger to flood over you because you are having to be kind to your ex. Focus instead on the joy it brings your children.
If you are a single parent, remember that being alone during the holidays is not an indication that you are unloved. It's such a crazy and hectic time that it's easy to feel that way since friends who are normally good about checking in regularly may have limited time available to call. You may have to make more of an effort than normal, but reach out to your support system during this time so that you can keep your head above water. Surround yourself with friends and family as much as possible. Sometimes just being around friends is all we need. If you work hard to show love to others, then it will only work to increase the love in your own heart if you allow it.
When emotions are high during the holidays, you may feel like lashing out at your ex even more than normal. Old wounds reopen and anger bleeds out. Do whatever you can to not only keep the peace with your former spouse, but extend an olive branch for the holidays -- be kind, be flexible, have the kids call the other parent more than normal, follow the golden rule. It's in the best interests of your children that you do whatever you can to keep the peace. While I firmly believe that should be the case every day, it seems many people have a hard time extending any kindness or compromise to their former spouse, even though it is clearly what the children wish. So for the kids, at least over the holidays, keep the peace.
If this Christmas has not turned out to be exactly what you wanted it to be, please remain hopeful. Hope is such an amazing thing... because even in our darkest hours, we can remain hopeful of the good that is to come. Hope is the belief that all of the pieces of your life that lay broken on the floor will be scooped up by the hand of God and rearranged into something so much better. Pay attention to what works and what doesn't work during the holidays and remain hopeful that you and your former spouse can do what you need to do to avoid similar issues in the future.
The holidays don't have to be a miserable mess just because you are divorced. You and your former spouse can work together to create memories for your children that you can be proud of in the future. We want them to look back on their childhoods and know that it was awful their parents were divorced, but at least their parents put their differences aside to focus solely on the children. We are working hard on that by creating new memorable traditions in our new blended family in addition to the list above.
Although this is focused on Christmas, I feel very strongly that these are all characteristics that should be modeled throughout the year. Being unselfish parents who encourage open communication and model faith, joy, love, peace and hope when dealing with your ex is the best gift you can give to your kids over the holidays... and all year long.
I promise that the joy YOU will receive by doing so will be an unexpected gift to yourself.
Learn more about Valerie DeLoach and her blended family on her blog, Life in a Blender.