National Center for Fathering
10200 W. 75th Street, Suite 267 Shawnee Mission, KS 66204 Phone:
(913)-384-4661 Fax: (913)-384-4665
DIVORCED DADS & THE HOLIDAYS
by Waylon M. Ward
It was one of those cards written to make
you grin at the sarcasm and I did chuckle. The card, decorated appropriately
with red berries and green holly, read: "Don't let them destroy the hypocrisy
of Christmas... It's the only part I enjoy!" Even though such cartoons
make us grin, they also remind us that the holidays can be tough for some
people. Divorced dads particularly find the holidays often lonely and very
sad. I remember a Thanksgiving meal at a local Holiday Inn during my divorce.
The food wasn't too bad, but the loneliness tasted horrible. And there
was a Christmas Eve night spent at another Holiday Inn just a few short
blocks from where my kids were asleep in the house where I used to live
with their mother. The holidays, particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas,
are tough on divorced dads and their kids, and the first couple of years
are often the roughest. This has to do with the "family nature" of these
special days, the holiday traditions, and memories of past years as an
intact family. Visitation usually means that parents alternate years and
holidays, so it means every other Thanksgiving and every other Christmas
is going to be spent away from your children. It's hard, but not impossible.
Here are a few ideas to make the season a more enjoyable experience for
you and your children:
Include the children in the planning. Let them help make
the choices about when to celebrate the holidays and with whom. If you
can't be together on the special day, plan a time when you can celebrate
with the children. Be careful not to put a guilt trip on them about their
desires for the holidays.
Avoid the guilt reaction. Many divorced dads, still reeling
from their personal hurt and guilt, may be overwhelmed by these feelings
and respond to the children's pain by overcompensating with money or gifts.
They feel they need to make it up to the kids or at least help them forget
their sadness with lots of gifts. The first Christmas after my divorce
was obscene. The children received so many gifts from their mother and
myself. I was embarrassed to have people look at my tree with so many gifts.
I quickly learned that it didn't make the situation any easier to bear.
Help your children shop for their mom and stepparent(s).
Children want to give gifts to the people in their lives just like adults
do. Younger children have limited funds and often feel very awkward about
buying gifts for the first few Christmases after the divorce. Make it easier
on them by offering to help.
Allow the children to help with the Christmas cards. They
can lick the stamps or seal the cards, and it's a good time to talk about
all your friends and family members.
Build new family traditions. Divorced dads often make the
mistake of trying to duplicate exactly what the family traditions were
before the divorce. Create your own traditions, and let the children share
in the planning.
Give gifts that can help you and the children stay in touch.
A nice box of personalized stationery or their own personal cassette tape
player with blank tapes make nice gifts.
Read the Christmas story onto a cassette tape for the child
to listen to on Christmas Eve if you can't he there with them. The Christmas
story from The Living Bible and/or "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" make
two wonderful tapes, and the younger children will particularly like hearing
- Write your children a special Thanksgiving or Christmas
letter to read on that special day. The Thanksgiving letter could be a
list of all the things you are thankful for, including the children. The
Christmas letter could be about the best gifts you ever received-putting
your children at the top of the list. On those holidays when you are all
alone, reach out to those children who do not have a father who cares about
them. Your church or the Salvation Army can help you find these families.
These holidays without the children can also be spent building your ties
to your personal family of origin. Visit with your own Mom and Dad, and
celebrate with them. It could be fun reliving your own childhood memories.
The pain of divorce seems the greatest at these family holidays. But a
divorced dad who anticipates these lonely days can turn them into celebrations
of thankfulness and joy. Your children will thank you for the memories!
This article originally appeared in Today's
Father magazine, vol. 2, no. 4. Today's Father is a quarterly
publication of the National Center for Fathering (www.fathers.com).
Waylon Ward M.Ed. is the director
for the Dallas Center for Fathering. He is a former football player for
Texas A&M and a licensed marriage and family counselor. He and his
wife Lynn have six children in their blended family.
Guest book |View
You are visitor
Since July 31, 1997
This page hosted by
Get your own Free Home Page