Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

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.