What a rough time for so many of us! This particularly true if we are newly separated. A wonderful colleague, Karen Bonnell, was recently on a local television show discussing the challenges parents face during this time. It is well worth watching, as Karen gives us, in five minutes, a set of very helpful suggestions. I’d like to highlight a couple of them and add a few thoughts of my own.
Probably the most important bit of advice is take care of yourself. The holidays are such a sad and challenging time for the newly separated. Even if this is the 2nd, 3rd or even 5th holiday after your transition out of the family you once had, you may find yourself dipping into (in Karen’s words) a “River of Grief.” Of course, this is especially true if you are not spending time with your little ones. It is a particularly important time not to be alone. Let your friends take care of you. Find your family in those who love you – even if you aren’t feeling so lovable right about now. Even if you aren’t going to be with your children on Christmas, know that they are going to be excited to have their own Christmas with you, some time after December 25th and the best thing for a kid other than having Christmas, is having two Christmases. Hannukah, of course, gives you the chance to spend a few of the 8 nights with them. While it is often too easy during this time to ruminate on the losses and sadness, it will serve you and your kids to be able to find the warmth, friendship and loving-kindness around you. If your children know that you are okay, it will free them to enjoy their holiday season. Your kids will worry about you if you aren’t happy. For sure, they’ll know it. Children have incredibly acute antennae trained on their parents’ sense of their own well-being. If mom or dad aren’t happy, children will invest plenty of energy trying to take care of you. Another interesting suggestion Karen made was that, if you are newly separated, it would be good for children if you planned to take a brief, clearly defined, period to celebrate the holiday together with your separated partner and them. While, over time, this will not be something they will need (and you most likely will not want to subject yourself to the intensely mixed feelings this will engender), for the first time after separation, it may provide them with a sense of stability that will calm them.