One of the most heart-wrenching consequences many divorced Moms and Dads face is being apart from their children during the holidays. Even for those who have successfully moved on in life, have remarried and are genuinely happy with their new path in life, the notion of trading time with the children year to year with their Ex serves as an annual reminder of what once was, and also what will never be - being with their kids every year on Christmas morning. This is something that first families have the luxury of assuming and guaranteeing in their holiday plans.
So how do you keep the jolliness in the air and, more importantly, how do you keep the smile on your spouse’s face when their kids are spending the holiday that year with their other parent?
Make the most of the time you do get with the kids. Not your year? Create your own Christmas morning. Mail Santa a letter with the kids asking him to visit a couple days early for your blended family. Make cookies, light the fire, wear matching pajamas…the kids won’t remember the date, but they will remember the magic you sprinkled in the air and the extra effort you put into giving their non-traditional lifestyle the home cooked feeling of traditional family togetherness.
I’ve also made sure over the years to create holiday momentos for my husband to have for years to come. As the non-custodial parent, he oftentimes misses out on school projects and holiday gifts made in art class that year. I’ve made it a point to create those yearly souvenirs of youth, and it makes him smile to see his daughter’s handmade ornaments hanging on our tree, and her snowflake finger-painting taped to the window. I don’t allow the uneven time allowance between the two homes to serve as an excuse to miss out on childhood moments and momentos. This is something I can control, and if it means taking a couple extra trips to Hobby Lobby and saying a silent prayer when she discovered glitter, I’m happy to do it. It keeps my stepdaughter’s spirit in our home when her body is not.
What also helps my husband cope is an understanding from relatives. He’s not hunting for sympathy, he doesn’t need their pity…but he does desperately need their understanding. Many divorced parents see the look of disappointment on relatives’ faces when they arrive at the holiday party minus their little ones. Understandable, the holidays are a blast to experience through a child’s eyes. But what family members need to keep in mind is that their level of sadness at the thought of not seeing their neice or nephew, grandchild, or cousin for the holiday is miniscule compared to what that Mother or Father is feeling in their heart. Give them a comforting hug and ask about work, sports, or life in general. You play a big role in making their Christmas a merry one, and they need your positive support in these moments of bittersweet memory making now more than ever.
Lastly, focus on who your spouse does get to be that day: Your husband or wife. Perhaps a parent to kids of your own. My husband is not just somebody’s Dad. He’s a husband. He’s a brother. He’s a son. When a big piece of his heart is missing, I remind him of all the other pieces in his soul that make his heart whole. I do my best to surround him with love, as well as with loving people, during the family focused holiday season.