Posted by Dave
If you’re divorced with children like me, it is likely you have a separation or custody agreement that tells you when your kids will be with you and when they won’t. My copy of this legal paperwork also spells out what will happen with the children on Thanksgiving and Christmas. For me, these holidays rotate. On the years I have them for Thanksgiving, they are with their mother for Christmas. I had them for Thanksgiving this year, which means that we will spend this Christmas without the boys.
This is year #4 for my boys having “Two Christmases”. It is a constant reminder that our family isn’t like it used to be, and that we’ve had to make adjustments to how we celebrate the holidays. It is a constant reminder that we aren’t a “traditional” family. Because my parents divorced, I remember what it felt like to have a Christmas with my Dad, and a Christmas with my Mom. Even though this is becoming normal for our family, I must admit that on the Christmases that the boys aren’t with us, they are missed terribly. A traditional Christmas is all about the kids, from the myth of Santa, to stockings, to waking up early to unwrap presents, to playing with new toys. Nearly every Christmas movie you watch has some element of Christmas that focuses on children.
If you are spending Christmas without your children due to divorce, I’m here to tell you that if you let it, it will send you into a tailspin. You’ll start to feel emptiness, regret, and you’ll be miserable this Christmas. You’ll get angry at the “other” house or your ex-spouse, and you’ll be jealous that they get to spend Christmas with the kids. Not a great way to spend the Christmas holiday, is it?
I’m not an expert on the subject, but I want to encourage anyone who is going through this during the Christmas season. There have been some things that we’ve done in our home to adjust, and to make Christmas special even when it isn’t our year to have the children on December 25th. On the years we don’t have the boys for Christmas, we always have to plan our family Christmas for another time. Depending on where Christmas falls, we will usually do this the weekend before or after December 25th. We work hard to make sure that this day feels special to them, even though it may not be December 25th when we give our gifts. We build the anticipation. We make it exciting. This year, my mother- and father-in-law got into the act, and made a huge deal out of “our Christmas”, which happened to be on December 20th this year. That really made it feel like a special day to us and to the boys. It really is important to start some new traditions like this to make sure your children understand that you will continue make this time of year special for them. If you try hard enough, you’ll be able to identify ways to do this in your situation.
On the bigger picture, there are some other perspective adjustments that you can make to help you if you share your children with another home for Christmas. First of all, don’t get into a competition when it comes to buying gifts. Don’t go into debt to try to outdo their other parent. Trust me, the kids will pick up on that, and eventually could start to use it against you. Also, if the other home is able to buy more expensive gifts than you, the worst thing you can do is dump this on your children. Saying things like “well, it must be nice for them to afford that”, or “if I wasn’t paying them all this child support or alimony, I could buy you that too” is a sure-fire way to make your children feel guilty about the gifts they get from the other house. It is a sure-fire way to make sure that when they’re older and are able to choose who to come visit on Christmas, it will be with reluctance that they choose you. The bottom line is that no matter the circumstances, no matter how painful it is, you must get above it and be happy for your children for the Christmas that they have in the other house.
Another thing that may help is to remember that there are plenty of families this Christmas who would give anything just to hear their child’s voice this Christmas. You may have to wish your kids a Merry Christmas over the phone, but some parents aren’t able to wish their children Merry Christmas at all because they’ve passed away. Remembering this will help you cherish that phone call on Christmas day, and will help you maintain a perspective that keeps you thankful and grateful for what you do have, even if it isn’t “traditional” or “normal”.
Lastly, we don’t make it a secret on this blog about our belief in Jesus Christ. If you read the Bible, you see that Christmas itself is about a child who came to earth as a baby. That same baby grew into a man, and ultimately died on a cross, separated from His Father. Keeping this in mind reminds you that your Heavenly Father knows how you feel. He knows what it is like to let go of His child. If you have to let go of your children this Christmas, do it with the understanding that the One who created you had to let go too. Just as with Jesus and His Father, the hope of Christmas is wrapped in reconciliation. Keep that hope alive this Christmas for your children, no matter the situation.