THE HOLIDAYS AND DIVORCE....When we are separated from our closest loved ones, our children – how do we cope. The accumulated experience of hundreds of ERFF members may provide some help and relief. Following are some tips which have worked for many, when the coming holidays pose a special challenge
* Recognize that your children probably feel as bad about not being with you, as you do about not being with them. If you can, acknowledge their feelings, but don't intensify their feelings. Rather, make plans with them to celebrate the holiday when you will be together. Children can understand the separation if their parents help them.
* If this is your first year without your children for the holiday, family gatherings may be particularily difficult. This especially if your siblings will all be together with their kids. Be prepared for the questions you're likely to be asked by your nieces and nephews, as they inquire about the whereabouts of their cousins.
* Make plans to get together with friends who are in a similar circumstance. Many people will be spending the holiday away from their families - for various reasons. Try and connect with these friends, and give of yourself to them in an effort to make their holiday special.
* Be aware that your kids will likely want to take the gifts you give them to Mom's/Dad’s house, whichever they spend a lot of their time. Get your feelings about this clear ahead of time, so you don't end your togetherness with an argument at the door.
* Depending on your children's age, give some thought to gifts which you and they can enjoy together when they're with you (board games, storybooks, etc.). Take the time to select gifts which reflect your values as a person - and explain those to your kids.
* If your children are a great distance away, and there's no chance of seeing them over the holidays, consider sending them a cassette tape with you reading them a holiday story. This may be accompanied by a book of stories. Try to select something just beyond their level of reading, but not too difficult for them.
* Above all, remember that things may change. If this year is extremely difficult in trying to make satisfactory arrangements, other years might not be. Keep the door open for positive change.
The stress of being at odds with a cultural tradition can color this time of year for all of us. It is a difficult time for all separated and divorced families - even those who have seemingly trouble-free shared parenting arrangements. We each must do what we can to assure our children have a joyful holiday - and here is where our humanity is tested: how much do we give up of what we truely want for ourselves?
In the end, we must each find our own way through the difficult weeks ahead. It may help to remember that it's better to give than receive, however tough that might be in the midst of conflicted emotions.
The leadership of Equal Rights for Fathers wants to extend to all members our sincere wish for a most joyous and meaningful holiday