Holidays after Divorce–from the Children’s Perspective
What are you planning for your children this holiday season? Wouldn’t you like to get inside their heads to know how to make it great? Especially if they live a good part of the time with their other parent, it can be hard to track what they really want.
The following interview with 3 girls details what the majority of children of divorce want to say. For divorced parents–taking this message to heart might make all the difference this holiday season.
“How do you feel about the holidays?” asks the interviewer.
“Holidays are horrible,” mutters the little girl. “We used to be so excited for Christmas and birthdays—but now it’s just another fight. I don’t even look forward to them anymore. They fight over who owns us for Christmas.”
What do you want for Christmas?
“Peace. It doesn’t matter where they have us—we just want peace. Our parents getting along and having a good time. We want a calm voice. Them being nice.”
What are your parents not getting (understanding)?
“That we are miserable. I just wanted everything to get better—but it didn’t.“ From “7 Lessons from These 3 Girls” uptoparents.org.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. . .” So goes the song. And, so goes the hope parents hold for their children.
Divorced parents especially feel the pressure to “make the holidays good.” Yet, despite all the focus and energy—many children of divorce dread the holidays. Once they are adults. children of divorce looking back most often remember how they wished they could skip from October to January.
Parents who want to get the holidays right might do well to listen to the messages their children want them to hear.
Message 1: We feel like property—not people.
“They fight over who owns us for Christmas.” When parents scramble for time, children feel like property. One parent said in mediation, “If I’m going to give up the prime real estate (Christmas morning), I need something big in return.” He wanted to be clear how important time with his children was to him. But, statements like these don’t make children feel special. They make children feel like property. Time with them becomes a symbol of who “won” rather than a focus on them.
Message 2: We are miserable.
The message parents aren’t hearing—“We are miserable.” Of course, parents fear missing special moments—serving kids their special pie at Thanksgiving or seeing them wake to find what Santa left under the tree. Even more, some fear their children will spend time with a parent who ignores them or ruins the day. Yet, the fight ruins the day. Giving up time means parents might be miserable. Fighting for the time guarantees the children will be miserable.
Message 3: We just want peace.
Calm voices. Happy conversations. Time where children get to relax and enjoy being with their parents. That’s what children want—for Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, and every other interaction. They want their parents to be the adults, so they can be the kids. Enjoying the day—not figuring out how to resolve the fight.
Message 4: We want to focus on the day—not the clock.
“I don’t really remember what I get for Christmas. I just focus on getting through the presents as fast as possible so I’m not late for pick-up.” Children of divorce feel keenly the pressure to make sure each parent gets “their time.” Gone are the relaxed Thanksgiving naps or lazy Christmas mornings. Instead, kids keep one eye on the people and the other on the clock. Ever ready to bolt out the door for the next parent’s turn. Fully aware that, if they are late, the tirade will begin again.
Of course, holiday moments are precious—but they are precious because of time together. Parents help children when flexibility reigns and children can focus on the day—not the clock.
Message 5: We love both of you—please let us.
Many parents struggle to realize that their children’s relationship with the other parent is different than theirs. Sure, similar behaviors and conflicts can arise, but the effect is different. Children don’t feel the same.
The greatest gift a parent can give their child is to allow their child to have a relationship—flaws and all—with the other parent. Where there are conflicts in that other relationship, parents can teach their child skills for working through those. A great resource for this is the book Joint Custody with a Jerk by Ross and Cocoran. Otherwise, parents do well to simply let that relationship unfold and concentrate on their own relationship with the kids. When parents support relationships with each other, children not only enjoy having both parents in their lives—they learn crucial relationship skills they will use with everyone else in their lives.
If you have been through a divorce and would like guidance for creating great holidays–and great other days–for your children, call 317-344-9740 or email infor@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com for information on how we can help rebuild relationships that work. We look forward to serving you.