Divorce stress and holiday stress seem to magnify each other, and then there’s the added issue of kids torn between two parents. Divorced parents should try to keep sane by turning off the TV, eating pre-cooked holiday meals, and keeping spending down.
Just reading the words “divorce” and “holiday stress” is enough to make a contented, enlightened person dial up his therapist. But, adding children into the mix just makes winter holidays even more complicated.
Divorce brings quite a bit of stress and anxiety to parents. Most moms and dads have so many new problems that it can be difficult to keep track of them all, but here are a few:
Attempting to maintain a decent lifestyle for their children on less money
Having no partner to pick up the slack
The loss of a home for at least one spouse.
Difficulties with calming confused or distraught children
Worries about the future
Feelings of loneliness
There are many more, but those are some of the major issues. Children of divorced parents also have many of the same concerns that their parents have with divorce. And, in addition, kids often think the divorce was their fault or they worry that both parents will leave them.
Both Thanksgiving and Christmas are causes of stress during the best of times. Some people start feeling anxious during the week before Thanksgiving and, then, again right before Christmas.
Here are some possible concerns that run through divorced parents’ minds during the holiday season:
“What if everything doesn’t get done on time?”
“What if people don’t like their gifts?”
“What if I spend too much money?”
“What if the kids cry or shout in front of grandma and then I’ll have to deal with her, too?”
How to Reduce Stress
Most parenting plans spell out where the children are to spend each holiday. If not, parents should try to negotiate this between themselves. Many kids go to one parent’s house for Thanksgiving and then to the other parent’s house for Christmas, and sometimes kids have two Thanksgivings and two Christmases. Remember that a calm and reasonable resolution is the best gift that parents can give their children.
How to Survive the Holidays
Here are a few things that can help moms and dads get through Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Turn Off the television
Both adults and children may get depressed seeing phony baloney movies about happy families overcoming all Thanksgiving obstacles by having a big group hug. Also, Christmas commercials can cause children to lust after ridiculous toys, clothes, or electronics.
Don’t make anything from scratch, unless one finds cooking to be relaxing and therapeutic. If possible, get ready-made turkey dinners in a big box from grocery stores. (Call around and order well ahead of time.)
Start New Traditions
It is important to simplify the family’s new holiday traditions. Some moms and dads have Chinese takeout for Christmas. So what? It’s all about spending time together and having fun.
Christmas and Thanksgiving Anxiety:
According to psychologist, Jocelyn R. Miller, Dean Health Clinic, Wisconsin, “Often times, people who have not seen each other in a year are spending time together and sharing space. All this togetherness can be anxiety provoking…” Some people like to lie down in a bedroom or take a walk to get a break from a long, intensively festive day.
Holidays Without Children
Holidays can be grim without one’s children, or they can be relaxing. Parents who don’t have the kids for Thanksgiving should try to go to Mexico (no Thanksgiving) or Canada (their Thanksgiving is on a different day). If that’s impossible, they could see a movie in a big city where most people have no family in the neighborhood.
Parents who don’t have their kids for Christmas should also do their best to go someplace new. And, try to remember that a nice change of scenery, or a good book and a nap, can be more fun than a whole day with relatives.
Don’t go crazy with Christmas presents. Don’t try to outspend the former spouse. Don’t try to buy a child’s love.
The stress that comes from mixing divorce, holidays, and children is misunderstood by most people who have never been through it. There are therapists for every price range, and it really helps to talk to someone who understands the stresses associated with holidays and divorce.
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