When we hear the words “Christmas Story” most people think of either the birth of Jesus or the arrival of Santa Claus. But if you are divorced, or facing separation and divorce this season, I want to suggest that YOU are writing your children’s Christmas Story of 2012. You are helping to shape their memories and impressions of the year they were, 6 or 9 or 12. What will your children’s story be?
There is no topic that justifies the need for the tissue box in my conference room more than Christmas parenting time. Immediately I see sadness envelope my clients as they contemplate being away from their children during this holiday. And it is sad. That wasn’t part of the plan when you had them. It wasn’t how it was supposed to be. And yet…it is how it will be. What can you do to ensure that your children experience this Christmas as mostly happy and only tinged with sadness that their parents aren’t together? Here are a few ideas:
1. Decide now that your children’s peace and sheer joy is more important to you than YOUR time with them. Yes, that time matters. But what matters more to them than the time they spend with you versus the other parent, or getting an iPad or bike or anything else this Christmas, is being spared the tension that can surround Christmas when parents war over the clock.
2. Assure your children you will be fine when they are with the other parent. Don’t taint their time by sending them off with a backpack filled with your sadness. Is that really the mindset you want for them? Force yourself to state lightly that “Of course I’ll miss you but I am really glad that you get to spend this time with dad too. You guys just have fun!” Or, “I’ll be thinking of you but I’m going to Nana’s and I know mom’s looking forward to seeing you. So have a great time and I’ll see you when you return.” Then after you wave them goodbye, shed whatever tears you need to. You’d lay down in front of the proverbial moving train to spare your kids. This isn’t asking that and you can do it.
3. Seek wisdom from parents you’ve seen do this well. They are out there and often even embarrassed about the cordial relationship they have with former spouses. (I don’t know why that is but I’ve seen it enough to know it’s true. It’s not seen as the “norm” so they feel odd). But seek them out, ask them how they worked it out and what they did with their own sadness.
There are numerous ways in which your children’s Christmas Story can be a happy one this 2012. There is good information online as well. I recommend Gary Direnfeld’s article which you can find at http://www.yoursocialworker.com/s-articles/all-I-want-for-christmas.htm.
I wish you wisdom and your children only joy this Christmas season,