As the holiday season approaches, we at the Centre for Mediation, know it can be an especially stressful time for families going through separation or a recent divorce.
Covid created yet another layer of stress; not being able to interact with family and friends, near or far. No, even as the threat of COVID ratchets down, the health and safety guidelines are still murky and confusing.
At some of the best-loved and traditional holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza, we offer a few suggestions for making the upcoming holiday season “stressed-reduced.”
For those who celebrate Hanukkah, sharing the time for celebration is generally not as problematic because of the length of the holiday.
There is perhaps no other Christian holiday that has more ceremony, family, and emotional association for children than does Christmas. Divorcing individuals will often describe in great detail the traditions associated with the preparation and celebration of this holiday, from tree decorating, caroling, and Santa Claus, to Christmas Eve rituals, church attendance, and numerous extended family reunions. Here are some options to consider:
It is perhaps easiest to the divide this holiday, exclusive of the school vacation period, into three parts: Christmas Eve, Christmas Morning, and Christmas Day. (This is not to say that a pre-Eve or post-Day event is not equally as important for some families.)
For some Christmas Eve and Day are alternated annually with the biggest decision being based on where the will children sleep on Christmas Eve. If the parents can be comfortable together, it is not uncommon for both parents to be present on Christmas morning, at least as long as the children believe in Santa Claus.
Similar to Thanksgiving, some parents alternate Eve and Day annually, sometimes extending through the entire school vacation period. In this version, in alternate years the children will be with only one parent. This practice can be somewhat tempered by building in some time for the “non holiday” parent to exchange gifts or enact some part of the Christmas ritual.
One parent always has Christmas Eve and the other parent always has Christmas Day. At times, here too, the morning is shared.
One parent has the holiday and the other the school vacation period, beginning on December 26th. This, of course, can be alternated or the same every year.
Another option is for one parent to devise a new tradition such as a celebration on the Eve of Christmas Day or a New Year’s bash. The variations are indeed almost endless. It takes a bit of flexibility and creativity to put aside existing traditions and create new ones. And, too, the younger are the children, the easier it is to begin a tradition that will last as long as the family celebrates together.
Ways to Celebrate Around COVID
Focus on What You Can Do…
Decide early whether you will be flying to someone else’s house and if so, be sure to review current CDC Travel Safety Guidelines. If you cannot make the trip because it is too risky with compromised people, here are some other suggestions from the Child Mind Institute:
Spread out the holidays with several, short online (or smaller, in-person) celebrations leading up to the actual holiday.
If you have to give up a flight to visit cousins, put up a You Tube video that simulates a flight and watch it with the kids or set up a zoom call and watch it together with the cousins.
On the day of the holiday meal, set up a Zoom call and encourage all ages to join in with something they are thankful for.
For Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, plan a time to light the Menorah, or Kanata candles together on a Zoom call.
Before Christmas Eve, set up an evening /day to simultaneously decorate or light up your Christmas Tree
Holidays are important times in every family’s life. Separating and divorcing couples need to make it joyful for their children by agreeing on how to share the holidays in a manner that focuses on their children’s needs, while remembering that parental needs and feelings also require consideration. Have a creative plan, and try to be open to changing it, and cherish the holidays.