Keeping the peace and harmony in your home this holiday season
“I’m not coming if your father is going to be there.” Sadly, this is a familiar reply to the Christmas invite in families of divorce. My parents divorced when I was only 3 years old, so these refrains are familiar territory. They challenge our ability to walk in the fullness of joy that is Christmas.
Often these broken family dynamics are magnified during the holidays. For the first time in 43 years, no one knows better than I about trying to keep the peace. My mother has bitter feelings toward my biological father and the father that raised me for all of my life. The verse I meditated on through the season was: “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment that comes with a promise: “Then you will live a long, full life. . .”
How can you navigate the holidays with your broken family? Here are some things to help us keep it all together for the sake of our faith, our children and our own sanity:
1. Engage your family with depth and creativity. If you host the event, you’re responsible for what happens next. You have the emotional edge in setting the tone for what follows, rather than buckling under the pressure of your divorced parents’ meltdown. Plan your dinner and keep your guests busy. Load the table with Christmas crackers, sing a carol to start the meal, and ask everyone to go around and share a favorite Christmas memory. Give your children responsibilities so that the focus is on them serving those who might be hurting that day, rather than on themselves.
2. Invite one parent to join in your holiday tradition and another parent to celebrate a different one. My mother celebrates each year on Christmas Eve. I don’t have a problem with my fathers as I only celebrate with her. It is now my son that has to be shipped between his grandmother and his father and myself. I often don’t see him on Christmas as I get to see him all year long. I let him spend it at his fathers each year. I don’t mind. I love everyone. I want everyone to be happy. It is a chore each year to please everyone. I do my best and if people get upset, so be it. I try very hard.
I am going extra early to my mother’s on Christmas Eve so she can celebrate with just us before others arrive. His father will come around 9 pm to get my son so he can drive 2 hours to Ocala and spend Christmas Morning with his father. Do not let them run your own family Christmas. The day when we were children is over and our family now comes first.
2. Take care of yourself instead of striving for perfection. In order to deal with holiday dysfunction, stick with your exercise program rather than abandoning it. Set a goal to eat healthier than you usually do. Treat yourself to an indulgence you never have time for, like sitting in a whirlpool after a workout. When the tense conversations come, you’ll be physically at your best, and you can steer the tone more effectively if you aren’t drained.
I know a lot of you have broken families. But please do not forget your relatives. It has been so difficult for myself and others that I find that some of us don’t even feel in the spirit or even celebrating Christmas.
Some have chosen ex’s to spend the holiday with and leave their own immediate family out and this in my opinion is not right. If you chose to spend some holiday time with an ex then try to work in everyone. Spend the morning or afternoon with one and then when they leave have the other one over. So no one is left out. No one should be without loved ones. That is my two cents! Merry Christmas and Hope everyone has a Happy New Year!