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Why the holiday season is so hard on families going through a divorce.

By | - November 20, 2018

Steve Benmor is a recognized divorce lawyer, family mediator, arbitrator, speaker, writer and educator. Mr. Benmor has worked as lead counsel in many divorce trials, held many leadership positions in the legal community and has been regularly interviewed on television, radio and in newspapers as an expert in Family Law.

The holidays evoke many different emotions. Holidays mean festivities, celebrations, home decorations, gift giving, and lots of good times. But the main thing that holidays represent is the family. Trying to celebrate a holiday while facing the prospect of a divorce is heart-wrenching. It creates feelings of guilt, embarrassment and anxiety. This is especially the case for the spouse who is intending to separate. In some cases, the other spouse is not yet even aware. In such cases, the spouse intending to separate is carrying even more guilt and frustration. In other cases, both spouses know that their marriage is about to end. In those cases, both spouses are struggling with a variety of emotions. In all cases, the spouses are attempting to create the facade that everything is OK. This artificial demonstration during the holidays has played out in thousands of families. The reason for it is understandable. They do not want the children to experience sadness, fear and anxiety during their holidays. They also do not want to make their personal tragedy the subject of family conversations and involvement. They prefer to simply ignore the problem and get through the holiday.

Although there is no way to escape the discomfort of holiday celebrations during an impending divorce, here are 3 tips on how to navigate that period:

TIP #1: Pre-plan the family gatherings in such a way as to minimize the time together as a family. By doing so, you are limiting the period of discomfort and creating a situation that will be easier to navigate. Rather than offering to host this year, suggest that another family member organize and host the family gathering.

TIP #2: Find at least one confidant who will be present at the family gathering who you can rely upon for understanding, compassion and support. That person will hopefully assist you with managing all of your interactions with your soon-to-be ex and other family members. This person will also “run defence” on any challenging moments.

TIP #3: Arrange respite for yourself during the holidays. Whether it’s private time with a close friend, going to the gym or a yoga class, or just taking daily walks, make sure that you plan time for yourself to breathe, relax and contemplate your future. On the subject of your future, begin forming a vision of what that will look like. Draw an image for yourself of a happy, calm and exciting future. This will allow you to manage the bumpy road to get there. Despite how difficult the holidays maybe, your anticipation of a positive future will assist you in suffering through any difficult moments.

The most important thing for divorced parents to remember is that the holidays are about their children, not them. Even if you are unable to be with your children during a holiday, encourage them to enjoy themselves with the other parent and their extended family. Try to embrace the spirit of the holiday season, let go of anger and be thankful for what you have versus what you have lost.

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