Divorce and the Holiday Season

Q. “The holiday season is coming up and I’m recently separated. I have two school-age boys. My stomach feels like a knot thinking how different the holidays are going to be now for them. Is there some way to make it easier?”

A. Family holidays are supposed to be relaxing and stress-free, but often they aren’t. Planning family holidays is a particular challenge for the millions of divorced families out there. In fact, one out of three Americans is part of a blended family (and I suspect the statistics are similar for Canadians).

Divorced families face an even bigger challenge with holiday planning with children shuttling back and forth between mom’s house and dad’s house. There are all those logistical questions. Whose turn is it to have the children for Christmas morning? What if both parents are having a turkey dinner on the same day? How do you handle summer break? What do you do if you end up solo on a major family celebration day?

The key for separated families, like yours, is to doing some advance planning and preparation. Without that, holidays can end up being a time for stress and re-opening of old wounds instead of a time to relax and unwind, both for divorced parents and their children. There are some tips I can offer to make it a bit easier. First of all, instead of planning your holidays one at a time, … Continue reading

Divorce and Separation: Crying in Front of the Children

Q. “How can I stop crying so that I can function in my life and my job, and is it ok for my kids to see me crying?”

A. Crying, grieving and feeling the loss of your relationship and the loss of your dreams of “living happily ever after” with one person is normal. It’s important to feel all of your emotions fully instead of trying to stuff them down or ignore them. Tears are not a sign of weakness. It’s been said that tears are simply the ice around our hearts melting.

We are important role models for our children about how to be responsible for our own emotional well-being. If you find yourself in tears in front of the children, let them know you’re feeling sad and that it’s normal to cry if you’re feeling sad. This normalizes their experience and gives them permission to fully feel and express their emotions as well.

Explain to your children that feelings simply move through us. It is healthy for us to give them an outlet so we don’t get… Continue reading

Divorce and Children: Should You Put on a Happy Face?

Q. “My head knows my relationship is over but my heart has yet to catch up. I’m not sure how to grieve. My children (3 are adults and live with me) dislike seeing me sad at any time. Should I put on a happy face in front of them?

A. Having your heart and head synch up and fully realize that your marriage is over is often a challenge. In some cases, our hearts feel that the connection and love are gone, but the head can rationalize that the relationship is “perfectly fine.” In your case, your mind is being practical and accepting of the end of the relationship, but your heart is still aching and in grief. That is quite normal. I encourage you to find ways to honor your grief and your emotions, rather than trying to manage over them by keeping up a happy front for the sake of your children.

There is no way around it. Divorce is a time of great emotional upheaval. Divorce is also an opportunity for us to learn about how to be resilient emotionally and discover wisdom and strength that we may not have know that we had. It is an opportunity to give expression to your feelings so that you can move your way through them, rather than repressing or denying them. It is also a time to consider what… Continue reading

Dating and Divorce: Introducing The New Partner

Q. I’ve just started to date casually and I’m not sure how much I should share with my boys, who are 10 and 13. What’s the best way to introduce a new partner to my children?

A. If you’re getting out into the dating world, I recommend you give yourself permission to have fun and enjoy yourself first. Trust your own gut on how much and how often you need to share about how this part of your life is developing. You definitely don’t need to share the daily ups and downs with your children. Let your children know that you have a social life and that you are meeting new friends. This tells them you have a life outside of your children that makes you happy and most children want to see their parents happy. Keep it light and open and… Continue reading

Divorce: What Happens to Your Friendships

Q. “We’re one of the first couples in our social circle to get divorced. I don’t want my divorce to change my friendships, yet I’m worried that it will. What can I do to prevent it?”

A. This may not be the answer you want to hear, but divorce will inevitably shake up your friendships and social structure. Many of your friendships will stay intact. But some of them will fade away.

The most obvious place that social friendships may change is with family members. For some families, the ex-in-laws can maintain a friendship with the former spouse. But in many families, blood ties tend to outweigh marital ties over time. If you have children together, the research shows that children adapt better after divorce if they can maintain… Continue reading

Divorce: Children and the New Partner

Q.“How do I help my children cope with a dad who has a new woman in his life, when they feel she comes before them?

A. It can be a difficult transition for children to see parents with new partners. Children often dearly hold that that fantasy that mommy and daddy will get back together. That fantasy comes crashing down when a new partner enters the scene.  There are two points I’d invite you to consider in how you deal with this situation. Continue reading

Reaching Your Goals: Creating a New You for a New Year

Have you got your list of New Year’s resolutions written yet? Have you charted out the course you want to follow in 2009? If you haven’t, don’t fret too much. Research shows that over 90% of New Year’s resolutions end up on the trash heap anyway.

Despite our best intentions to achieve our goals, life can often get in the way. I had planned to take a few quiet personal days over the holidays, to thoughtfully reflect over the past year and create my plan of action for 2009. I’ll be honest and tell you it never happened. Life happened …. Continue reading

Letting Go of Guilt

Q: I have been divorced for over 10 years, and it was my call to end the marriage. I thought I would be over the guilt and regret I feel for breaking up the family we had and for the pain I feel for my 2 daughters. But I don’t seem to be and I’m not sure why.

A: Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Similarly, no one can make you feel guilty without your consent and participation. When you choose guilt, it’s like trying to drive forward in your car while looking back in your rear-view mirror. It’s hard to do and you’ll miss a lot of … Continue reading

Divorce: Pearls of Wisdom Discovered

Divorce is certainly a challenging and revealing process. If we’re to truly learn from the past and not repeat the same mistakes in future, it’s crucial to take the time to reflect on those pearls of wisdom your divorce has to offer. It’s in a crisis that you can really learn what makes you tick.

By reflecting upon, and articulating, the lessons learned, one gains true wisdom and the ability to…

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Loneliness During the Holidays

Q. I find the holidays really hard now that I’m separated. It’s tough not being with my children all the time, especially when it used to be such a special family time for us. I feel sad and lonely.

A. Special occasions, such as Christmas or Hanukah, school vacation times and birthdays, can be difficult for families who are separated or divorced. Loneliness unfortunately comes with the territory. That’s why it’s important that you …

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