Author Archive

Christmas Parenting after Separation & Divorce

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Christmas in Two Homes

It is almost becoming the norm these days for children to have “two homes” as a result of separation, divorce, and even the recent increase of couples, who have never lived together, having a child.  Debating the pros and cons of this transition from one household families to two, becomes especially moot at Christmas time when, undoubtedly, it can be a difficult time for everyone involved.  For parents, there is often deep sadness, loneliness, and an experience of “re-grieving” their loss in the face of having to share children during this very family oriented season.  Children feel shuffled from one home to another; experiencing everything from fragmented Christmases to parents fighting as pick-up and drop offs occur.  Grandparents lose the opportunity to share in their grandchildren’s special celebrations.  Fear and anger emerges as everyone begins to compete in the materialistic game of who will be able to afford (or charge) the best presents and who gets to have the children for Christmas Eve/Morning/Day. 

Defining Christmas

I read an article recently on this and it posed the question, “when does Christmas begin for children?”.  My observation is that its almost as soon as Halloween is over!  That means that Christmas does not revolve around a 48 hour period, December 24th and 25th, but rather is a “season” that lasts almost 6 weeks.  In celebration of that season, we can develop traditions and engage in activities that span those weeks… special Christmas baking, seasonal family night movies, church services and rituals, sponsoring a Christmas amalgamated family, helping to collect food for the food bank, caroling, sledding, reading favourite Christmas books… these are the things that define Christmas for your children; the involvement in traditions that can occur anytime in the weeks before and after the coveted 48 hour period we call “Christmas”. 

The Best Christmas Present Ever

One family I worked with understood the true spirit of Christmas.  The person I am most in awe of was the father, who had been asked to leave the family home when the parents separated.  Although I’m sure he experienced the same emotions we all do, he ultimately believed that his children belonged in their “home” for all major seasonal celebrations and was gracious enough to allow his ex-wife and her new partner to be with his/their children regardless of the access schedule.  I understand he was a creative problem solver who recognized that Christmas was not about a date on the calendar but rather the experience of family that made a holiday great.  So he built a “time machine” out of a large refrigerator box and when the children would arrive for his “turn” at celebrating a particular holiday, he would climb in the box with them, rattle it around as they went “back in time”, and when they leapt out of the box they would begin their celebration. 

An adult woman told me this story of her father, and I can tell you, there are many Christmas mornings she does not remember from her childhood.  However, her father’s gift of grace, offered to her and the rest of her family through his crazy time machine, will never be forgotten. 

I’m not suggesting that parents, especially fathers, not be involved in their child’s Christmas, but perhaps, this year, it is time to live the true message of of the season… time to become part of creating the blessing “peace on earth” instead of being party to its destruction… time to recognize the rights of our children to have a “whole” Christmas, or at least one they have a say in creating… time to discover that Christmas is not a simple date on the calendar but rather a way of being and celebrating several weeks of magic with your child that is special to your unique relationship with them.  

The mystery and excitement of Christmas morning will come and go. Toys and packages will be forgotten.  But the memory of your gift of grace will live forever.  The gift of grace, whatever that looks like in your world, will guarantee that your children receive the best Christmas present ever… parents who live in different homes but are no longer fighting… parents who can wish each other a Merry Christmas and really mean it.  That’s truly all they want this year for Christmas.  If you don’t believe me, just ask them.

We have the Ruby Slippers

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Life Mimics the Movies

For those of you who are too young to remember the movie “The Wizard of Oz”, it is about a young girl named Dorothy who is whisked away from home by a tornado, and dropped into the middle of a fantasmical world called the Land of Oz. The Munchkins guide her to seek out The Wizard – and she does, because she believes she needs the help of someone with magical skills to return her “home”.

Throughout her quest to find The Wizard, she encounters many dangers and pitfalls – even flying monkeys.  And although these challenges interfere in some ways with her getting home, they also allow Dorothy to use her own strengths. Thus, when she discovers the wizard is nothing more than a little man who has no more magical power than she has, Dorothy is open to the possibility of taking on the responsibility for her circumstances and using the power of her ruby slippers to find her way home.

How Does the Wizard of Oz Relate to Mental Wellness?

Such is the journey most of us make in our attempt to return home – to that time when we felt a sense of wellness and the place where we belonged, even if it isn’t the home of our childhood, but rather the home of our hearts.  We need to believe we each have within us our own pair of magical ruby slippers and understand that they comprise not only the personal responsibility to get ourselves home, but also the skills we need to accomplish it.  

We need to acknowledge the strengths we’ve developed facing our own flying monkeys… difficult childhoods, parents who were unable to parent… difficult relationships established repeatedly in an effort to find one’s way home… losses of various kinds.  Violations of heart, soul, or body… denial of one’s authenticity either by others, or more often by one’s self… messages of inadequacy instilling in us the belief that we are not enough – that we require a wizard to make us whole – to take the lead – to offer us the magic solution or pill, perhaps, to help us find our way.

You Have the Ruby Slippers!!!

The ruby slippers represent all the strength of character and fortitude we developed surviving the flying monkeys… the wisdom of our own hearts… our intuition that something is not quite right… anxiety when we are not being treated as we should…  betrayal when we are asked to change… to be something other than our authentic selves to be loved… The ruby slippers represent all the answers we have inside us. Sometimes just remembering we have the Ruby Slippers is enough… we can click the heels together three times and say “I want to go home”… and sometimes, its true, we need some help to remember how to work them.  But we never need a wizard to save us because we have our own magic and its contained in the ruby slippers.

Fancy New Website

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

It’s official. I’m embarking on a new path in my career as a social worker and counsellor. This new website is to become my new presence as a business, a service to assist others, and as an outlet to communicate and interact with people from all over.

Some of the technical web stuff is very new to me and a daunting challenge, but oh so exciting at the same time.

The website is meant to be a marketing platform for my counselling services, particularly the new realm of online therapy, and here in this blog portion of the website I can write about and share my thoughts on all the sorts of transitions and difficulties we all face in life.

Thank you to Steve at Axemedia for all his help in building this website and his insights to how search engines, internet visitors, and community building through blogging all works. This new venture has been fraught with uncertainty and stress and his guidance has helped me immensely with this transition in my life.

See, we all can use a little help and counselling from others. I hope this new website and the online counselling I’ll be offering will help many others with their personal transitions through life. 🙂