Category Archives: Children

Holiday Survival Strategies

Holiday survival guide for divorced parents

[SOURCE: http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/21/living/holiday-survival-divorced-darents/index.html – from 2011]

<NOTE: The following is an article I ran across while researching my divorcing parents’ guidebook. The advice is sound, and the need is ripe. If your children have been through a divorce, especially if it’s been this year, you need to be prepared for the shock and pain they will experience in their first big holiday with a broken family. Please don’t underestimate the impact this will have on your kids. Thanksgiving and Christmas are hyped so strongly that the divorced child is left behind on the frantic rush to The Perfect Christmas Morning. And for “our” kids, that Perfect picture doesn’t exist. Start now to prepare to guide them through the parties, the gift giving, the visitation, and the separation of the next few weeks. STEPcoach Bob Collins]


The holidays can be rough on divorced parents and their children David Murphy hasn’t started shopping for his two boys yet, and he knows he had better get started. The div orced father of two boys, ages 11 and 14, has custody for a full week around Christmas Day this year and needs to get a tree and start buying presents.

Every other year, Murphy (who didn’t want his real name used to protect his children’s privacy) doesn’t have Christmas custody. So, he tries to do something completely different. Divorced for four years, he has traveled with his mother to visit England, where she was born. He has joined his father and stepmother on a trip to Carmel, California.

He hasn’t crashed his ex-wife’s Christmas Day plans, even though she lives only three miles away from his home in suburban Virginia.

“We try not to mess with the schedule when we don’t have to because it’s easier on both parties,” said Murphy. “As each party has moved on, it happened to work that way. We try not to interfere with each other.”

With the U.S. Census Bureau counting nearly 4 million divorced parents in this country, many parents are facing the challenges of negotiating holiday custody schedules, battles over presents, new significant others and simply the pain of being apart.

Whether you have the children for Christmas or not this year, going through a separation or divorce means giving up the dream of a perfect Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa. With the fantasy of the perfect nuclear family obviously over, it can be lonely even with the kids — but much worse without them. Facing the first holiday since the split, how do people ever survive this holiday season? And eventually even thrive?

Many like Murphy — who credits his ex-wife with keeping the focus on their sons’ well-being during the divorce — have found a new way of parenting beyond divorce. Here are some things that work:

Keep it focused on the kids

You may not expect to have a happy holiday but wouldn’t you like your kids to have a reasonably nice time? Even if you’re right, do you want them remembering you put them in the middle of your battles? And no child wants to feel pressure to choose you over the other parent, whom she loves as much as she loves you.

<No matter how you feel about your ex, or whether your feelings are justified or not, one fact remains: your children still love both of you. Kids love their parents. It is in their blood – literally! The sooner you accept this fact the better for you. Parents who try to alienate their children from the other bio-parent aways lose. Always.>

Parents learn about the payoff later, when their grown children make their own choices about where they spend their holidays. In her book “We’re Still Family,” about adult children of divorce, psychologist Constance Ahrons learned that some adult children refused to visit either parent if the bickering continued. “The children were happiest where parents at least communicated,” said Ahrons, also the author of “The Good Divorce.” “They didn’t want to get caught in the middle, and they wanted to be with both parents.”

Sort out details in advance

Nail down the specifics about who gets which days around the winter holidays, including pickup times and locations. Sometimes the details are in your custody agreement, sometimes not. Put it all on e-mail or in writing and stick to the deal — at least until it becomes routine. If you’re a more casual, less detail-oriented parent, know that you’ll score points with your more time-obsessed ex if you’re on time at drop-off and pick-up. If you’re the detail-oriented parent, plan for your always-late ex to be late as usual and you’ll be less stressed. Do not fight about time or anything else with the children present.

<The worst thing a divorced parent can do is to argue with (seen as Bullying to the kids) your child’s other parent. They don’t care at all who is right or wrong about whatever you’re fighting over. They love you both and need both their halves to function smoothly together.>

“Put aside the warfare that so often accompanies divorce,” said Steven Grissom, president of DivorceCare, a Christian-based divorce ministry with chapters around the world. “If that carries into a special time in the eyes of child, it makes the holiday experience excruciating.”

Don’t out-Santa each other

If you can speak civilly with your ex, talk about a general budget for presents, the number of presents and what Santa is getting your children. Santa knows which address to deliver the bike or the castle or the Wii, so don’t screw up his planning by having one at each house (unless you both want one at each house). Don’t outdo each other. Remember the spirit of the holidays and avoid trying to buy the children off with fabulous presents. And don’t buy that violent video game for the specific purpose of angering your ex. The same goes for grandparents and new significant others. If they’re interfering in your co-parenting plan, remind them they are not helping your child. At the same time, accept that parents may have different standards about what are acceptable gifts. If you are opposed to electronic games, you may need to accept they will exist at your ex’s house.

Keep some traditions, within reason

Children love routine and ritual, so keep a few family traditions if you can. If you baked dozens of different types of cookies for everyone in your life, reduce the number and type of cookies during your annual baking party but keep your daughter’s favorite snickerdoodles. If your family liked to take a trip into the woods in your ex’s truck to cut down a tree, you may have to explain that your smaller car can’t haul such a tree. “To the extent you can, talk with your children ahead of time and find out what is really important to them,” Grissom said. “If that won’t be possible, maybe you can create a new tradition.”

<Instead of crushing your children’s cherished traditions and memories, recruit them to come up with new traditions. Maybe including some of the old, but (as you’ll tell them) this is their big chance to build exactly the kind of new family and home they want to live in. Encourage them to make plans, then follow through with them.>

Don’t push too much togetherness

While some ex-spouses can sing carols around the Christmas tree or light the Hanukkah candles together with the kids and both sets of grandparents, that’s not the reality for everyone. Some do not want to spend time with people who left them or whom they chose to leave. Some people fight every time they see each other. Do not force more togetherness than either of you can handle, and don’t feel guilty about it. (That said, if you haven’t broken up yet, wait until January. Don’t be the Divorcing Grinch Who Stole Christmas.)

Don’t lobby for your sweetheart

Bringing a new significant other to the family festivities can really throw the holidays off-balance for the family, Ahrons said. “One parent will say, ‘Are you really going to bring her to this table?’ or ‘You can come without her.’ Avoid if it’s going to cause trouble, even if the new girlfriend is serious.” Remember, it’s about your kids, not you.

<And all this was not their idea. They are struggling to survive with the new set-up their parents created. Make it as good for them ask possible. At least for a few days per year.>

The exception to the rule

If your ex is currently a danger to himself or herself — and/or others — the safety of your children is more important than cooperating during the holidays. In fact, you’re probably trying to break the pattern of your ex ruining holiday celebrations. Elizabeth Jones, who didn’t want her real name used to protect her child, isn’t letting her ex spend the holidays with their daughter for the first time in years. He only recently contacted Jones a couple of weeks ago after disappearing for months. Whenever he sobers up, she first lets him have supervised phone calls for a few weeks, eventually visits with her and their daughter at a neutral location such as a park, followed by visits at her California home. “If my kid weren’t so thrilled every time she got to see him, I would be handling this differently,” said Jones, who has sole custody. “It’s a lot of emotional work for me to put aside my own feelings.”

He’s a jerk

If you’re a saint and your ex is a sinner and won’t take any of your thoughtful recommendations to heart, consider this notion: Safety aside, it’s better for your child for you to let your ex “win” sometimes, even if you’re right. Christmas can sometimes fall on December 27 or even January 6 (the Feast of the Three Kings). Hanukkah is eight nights of fun, so you don’t need to control all eight nights. That doesn’t mean you’re a doormat. It means you’re a good parent.

Your adult child will know you tried to make her life better by trying to compromise with your difficult ex (and yes, children know who was difficult).

<But, don’t point it out to your kids. That will make you look like you are bad-mouthing their other parent, whom they love just as much as you. Let them figure it out themselves. Your kids are very observant. They KNOW who is playing nice and who is not.>

“How you react to your ex-spouse is how you are teaching your child to handle conflict, stress and anger,” said Alan Kazdin, a Yale University psychology professor and director of Yale’s Parenting Center. “Giving up a Christmas here or there means you’ll have your child long-term. You want your child to have an ally in you later in life. It’s not only more rewarding; it’s more worthwhile long term.”

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TMI or Just the Facts, Ma’am

By Bob Collins

How much information do your children need in order to do what you require from them? Over load or insufficient data?

I have several devices, tablet, phone, laptop, etc, etc, as I’m sure you probably do, too. And I have several power supplies which I have collected over time with the devices. The power supplies are different amperages, stated in different ways, which drives my poor writer’s brain nuts.

This morning I was trying to choose between one power supply that said “output: 8.5 Amps” and another that said, “output: 500 mAmps.” >sigh< unable to find my old college math books, I consulted my next favorite source, Google.

Three hours later, after learning about basic quantum electronic theory and the origin of lightning-based home-schooled electromechanics, I stumbled upon a simple converter that told me, with the click of a simulated button, which one was more gooderer. 

We now have WAY too much information available for the efficient delivery of answers to befuddled, overworked humanoids. 

WHAT INFO DO KIDS NEED FROM PARENTS?

In our oversaturated, overstimulated, overinformationalized society, I am seeing so many cases of mis-communication between parents and their kids. We moan about a lack of respect from our children, when – I suspect – the problem is really a lack of connection. 

Parents have lately become victims of “Explain-itis” when it comes to giving directions to their children. The directive to stop hitting a playmate slowly melts into a long, dry lecture on the reasons for mutual respect, societal order, individuals’ personal rights versus self-esteem, and all the other catch words spewed out by everyone from the media to Facebook to educational flyers.

By the time a well-meaning parent has explained the psycho-social theory behind playground fairness and mutual concern for the planet, the poor child has forgotten what the lecture started over. And he has lost a little more respect for Mom’s or Dad’s intellectual usefulness.

A simple, “Tommy! Stop hitting that boy! Now, apologize to him; shake his hand; and get in the car, we’re going home,” is an excellent delivery of the necessary information and steps to be taken for Tommy to end the inappropriate action, reconcile with the other child, and begin his next action.

Our children’s minds are not developed, until their mid-twenties, to incorporate and process complex multiple streams of information. The most effective way to instruct them is with simple directives, delivered in a straightforward order, so that they can process one step at a time.

Long detailed explanations about why some actions must be taken, are best left for later, perhaps at bedtime when the excitement of the moment has passed. 

If you spend too much time carefully enlightening your child about the engineering facts of the internal combustion engine and the momentum-to-surface texture friction ratio required to halt a moving automobile – you may end up finishing the explanation in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.

Just like I was distracted and confused by all the in-depth discussions about amperages, your kids don’t necessarily need to understand the “Why” and the background, as much as they need to know What you want them to do first, second, and third.

Remember that kids don’t like “TMI”! 

[by Bob Collins, Copyright 2017]