Dealing with Divorce and Children during the Holidays – By Ida Zarrabizadeh, Psychotherapist
We all hear about the holiday blues, but to those that are dealing with a life changing circumstance such as divorce, this can be a particularly challenging time, especially in the early stages. There’s a lonely feeling that comes to visit, and reflecting back on previous holidays when you were all together as a family can make these feelings even stronger. As a professor at The Marriage and Family Therapy graduate program at Touro University WorldWide, a non-profit institution of higher and professional education, and through my private practice, I have been able to work with numerous individuals and families dealing with divorce during the holidays.
Circumstances become more challenging with a child in the picture. They start to ask more questions and wonder why everyone can’t be together during the holidays. There is also the challenge of who has the child during the holidays. This can make the entire holiday much more stressful and often times turn into fights and hurt feelings. Talk with your children about what they’re going through emotionally, making sure to stress that this is not their fault. Chances are, if they have a safe and open space to share their feelings with you, they will be better adjusted to the divorce and have healthier relationships as adults.
Planning ahead is important. When you know the holidays will be extra difficult for you, make sure you have a good plan of action to keep things a bit more sane for you and your children. Taking turns regarding who gets to be with each parent during the holidays can make this process more clean and peaceful. As stressful as it gets, do your best to keep the children out of the battles, and avoid using them as a messenger. This is a difficult time for everyone in the family.
It’s important to look for things that will make you feel better during this time. When mommy feels better, this will have a positive affect on the children as well. Make plans to be around others during this time (people you actually enjoy being with). Whether it’s family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc., it’s important not to be alone during the holidays. Always remember that it’s ok to get help from others so you can get through this time. We may have learned through society that being vulnerable shows our weakness. In reality, it takes strength to reach out and ask for support.
See this phase of your life as an opportunity to work on yourself and your relationships, go back to school, jumpstart your career, and be the best that you can be. If you like to host, invite others over for the holidays. Getting creative and having fun decorating for a fun holiday party can really get you excited and in the festive mood. This is also a great way to expand your social circle. If hosting is not your thing, ask others what their plans are and if you can join them for the holidays. Sometimes people won’t think of inviting you over or including you in their plans unless you mention it. This is especially true if you haven’t been in touch for a while. Being able to overcome your shyness and fear of being vulnerable can help you tremendously during these times.
The holiday season can bring out the goodness in others and as a result there are numerous volunteer and charitable opportunities that you can take participate in. Spending your time to give to those less fortunate will take the focus off yourself and your current circumstances and make you feel great about yourself in the process. Not to mention, this is a great way to bond with your children and model doing good for others.
Wishing you all a peaceful holiday season.
About Touro University Worldwide:
Touro University Worldwide is a non-profit organization established by philanthropic visionaries who are committed to developing a passionate, connected learning community that can help students achieve their individual academic goals. Students at Touro University Worldwide are committed to social justice, intellectual pursuit, and professional development. This philosophy is derived from the Judaic foundation on which the University was originally founded and a value system that welcomes all cultures and backgrounds.
About the Touro College and University System:
Touro is a system of non-profit institutions of higher and professional education. Touro College was chartered in 1970 primarily to enrich the Jewish heritage, and to serve the larger American and global community. Approximately 19,000 students are currently enrolled in its various schools and divisions. Touro College has branch campuses, locations and instructional sites in the New York area, as well as branch campuses and programs in Berlin, Jerusalem, Moscow, Paris and Florida. Touro University California and its Nevada branch campus, as well as Touro University Worldwide and New York Medical College are separately accredited institutions within the Touro College and University System. For further information on Touro College, please go to: http://www.touro.edu/media/.
To contact Ida or learn more about the MFT (Marriage and Family Therapy) program visit: http://www.tuw.edu/about_us/faculty_and_staff.html
You can find Ida on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/IdaMFT or go directly to her website: http://www.idazarrabi.com