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Category Archives: holidays

Ho Ho WHOA!!!

While the title of this blog is “Life as a Divorced Dad,” a good majority of the posts I write can easily be read by parents from just about any situation with a sense of, “yup … been there.” However this particular post will most likely resonate more with divorced parents than any other.

Like most parents, we invest months of preparation, planning, spending, anticipation, anxiety, stress, sleepless nights pushing ourselves to emotional extremes culminating in few days of hurried chaos as we attempt to accomplish splendid memorable moments of holiday cheer of epic proportions for our children. (deep breath)

We then groggily wake up on the 26th with a sense of, “Whoa what just happened?” For most, the sudden contrast of calm can be a little unsettling. The pace of our lives has been ludicrous speed and it’s now come to a screeching halt. For the typical family unit there is still a sense of wholeness that accompanies these feelings as the kids play with their new toys, a pot of coffee is brewing in the kitchen and parents 2014-12-02 22.17.53attempt to begin the process of cleaning up.

But for the divorced parent, there is often a much larger sense of contrast. For a divorced parent the experience can be remarkably cold and empty, especially if they spend Christmas morning with their kids and then hand them off to the other parent the day after. We wake to a Christmas ghost town of deadly quiet as we look around the house at shreds of ribbon strewn about along with a few empty boxes and left over Santa cookies. It can very much feel like slamming into a brick wall.

Throughout the year the transition from having kids to not having kids is most likely the most difficult adjustment for everyone involved, but the holidays take it to a whole nother level. It is an experience of extremes and the emptiness of handing your children off during the holidays can be unfathomably cold for no other reason than it’s an extreme shock to the system both physically and emotionally.

As hard as it may be at first, take advantage of the quiet. Rest. Reflect. And look forward to the next time you’ll get to see your children. Send them a text and let them know you’re thinking about them. Send a picture of you enjoying a gift they got you. Let them know that even when you’re apart, they’re still with you. Some children will feel guilt for leaving a parent alone. Letting them know you’re OK will allow them to enjoy their time with the other parent, so long as you stay positive.

Remember that everything you did during the holiday rush was to ensure your children had a joyous holiday. That’s still the focus. Part of that includes time with their other parent. Know that everything you’re doing, including sitting alone on the stoop, sipping on a cup of java, you’re doing to give your children memories and relationships they’ll cherish as they get older.

You did good. And you deserve a moment of peaceful reflection. Enjoy it while you can because in a few days, you’ll start the chaos of a new year all over again.

Peace!

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2014 in Divorce, holidays, Uncategorized

 

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Joy To The Imperfect World!

We all have visions of the perfect Norman Rockwell holiday. Everyone works hard to create the perfect day for their children and make sure that all the t’s are crossed and all the i’ dotted. badly-wrapped-gift

But just remember; it doesn’t have to be perfect. Chances are pretty good that not all of the planets will align the way you’d hoped. And you know what? That’s awesome! Revel in the errors and spilled egg nog. Just roll with it and remember that what’s important is to enjoy the time we have with each other. Do your best to make it a fun time for the kids and provide them moments they’ll recall with fondness. Frankly, I’m not sure what perfect means. Perhaps the perfect holiday is defined by your ability to enjoy the imperfections.

Regardless of how messy your holiday may be, I wish you peace, calm and a joyful spirit this holiday season. May you find strength and good will knowing that no matter what your circumstances, you’re not alone because I guarantee you someone out there knows exactly how you feel.

Happy Holidays!

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2014 in Divorce, holidays, Talking To Kids

 

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Presence Not Presents

Perhaps one of the most stressful things about the holidays is the pressure that the world around us puts on buying gifts. Between the catalogues, TV commercials, billboards, e-mail blasts and Web ads, someone is in your face every thirty seconds offering you 20% off, 50% off, 80% off, buy one get one free, free shipping and every other incentive you can think of to spend your money. And of course it’s all so you can show someone how much you love them. As if money = love.

Let’s get real for a moment shall we?

Don’t feel guilted into buying your kids Christmas. Yes they have wish lists. Yes Christmas morning is a magical moment for them. There’s2014-12-08 21.24.44no question about that. But having been through three or four Christmas’ as a divorced dad I can tell you this. What they’ll remember more than anything are the moments. What they’ll appreciate most, is time together with no arguing, fighting or yelling between adults.
Keep in mind, I’m not saying don’t buy them anything. Just don’t feel like buying them a bunch of stuff because you feel guilty about the divorce is the answer. If you’re like me, you still have to be smart about how much you’re spending. It helps to put boundaries on purchases and to have a plan.

One thing I started doing that helped was I gave myself a budget per kid. What I knew I could afford. Some years it’s been more than others and yes, I typically go over it, but starting with a visual financial guide really helps. I’m fortunate to be able to communicate with my ex regarding the big picture and we establish what the kids are going to get. But even if you’re not that lucky, make a list of what you want to get them and give yourself limits. This will help you avoid all of the extras we typically purchase on a whim when we really have no idea what we want to get them.

But the most valuable things you can give them are laughter, family, fond memories and you. They’re already stressed out about the holidays whether you’re divorced or not. What they need and want most is to know they matter. What they really need is your presence not your presents.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2014 in Divorce, holidays, stress, Talking To Kids

 

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Holiday Stress on Kids

Anyone with kids will tell you that children go through a remarkable metamorphosis around the holidays. Their attention spans go out the window, their ability to listen – gone, their energy grows exponentially, their attention spans go out the win… whoops, already said that one. And underneath it all, sometimes quite well hidden, their stress levels are through the roof! My guess is this can be especially true if their parents are divorced.

Holidays are about families and this time of year is a stark reminder for all of us, our kids included, that things are diff2014-12-02 22.17.48erent. I’m sure conversations with their friends bring added focus to the differences between different households. Traditions between your house and their mom’s will likely shift a bit. There’s trying to figure out travel schedules to visit with different families. Then the travel and visiting with different families, which let’s face it, stresses me out, just imagine the kids. Oh and there’s always worrying how Santa will know which house they’re at. All of it adds up quickly. Then to top it off, we’re often so buried in our own piles of stress that we miss a lot of the clues of what our kids are going through assuming the kids are having fun because, hell, it’s the holidays!

More than once I’ve had to stop myself and recognize the reasons for things like stomach aches that appear out of nowhere, sudden outbursts of anger (even more so than usual), forgetfulness and an inability to sleep. (And I’m talking about the kids here btw.) Sometimes the best thing we can do for our kids is to simplify and just let it all happen. Lighten the calendar load where you can. Try not to pack too much into one day. Let them know the plan ahead of time so they can wrap their heads around it. Focus on the fun and do everything we can to give them our time and attention if for no other reason than to provide them a sense of calm and serenity during what can otherwise be a crazy time of year for both them and us.

The holidays have become a time of turning our worlds completely around. Because of this, we’re all moving at warp speed during these weeks. Sometimes it’s best to put it all in park, relax and share our Christmas wish lists over a cup of cocoa.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in Divorce, holidays, Talking To Kids

 

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Your Loss Is Your Gain

Thought I’d stop and check in on you. How’s your holiday been so far? It can be a tough time for a lot of people and divorced parents are no exception. There’s something about the season that can make us focus on what we’ve lost rather than what we may have gained. Whether or not you have a good relationship with your ex, the
griefholidays have a way of reminding you of the un-whole aspect of your family and then unceremoniously throwing it in your face. It may be because you’re not with your kids during the holiday. It may be because you are. It may be because you’re all together but in a very different dynamic than you were a few years ago. It may even be a very positive and happy time. But it’s still a reminder of what used to be and that things may be patched, but in some ways they’re still broken.

Believe me I get it. The hard part is that there really is no “fix.” As with the loss of a loved one, all you can do is that which fate allows, which is to acknowledge and move on. Be strong. Lick your wounds, stand up straight and use your experience to your advantage. In many ways the hurt strengthens us. There’s a grit to it that allows us to know we’ve been there and made it through. It doesn’t erase the negative or fill the emptiness, but there’s something about having lived through adversity that humbles us and reminds us that we’re human.

Look, I could sit here and do my best to pump you up with words of encouragement; telling you not to focus on the pain. But honestly, I think sometimes we need to morn our losses. We need to give our souls a chance to heal. To ignore the pain is no more healthy than it is to dwell on it. If you’re sad, that’s OK. Give yourself an opportunity to grieve. It’s a part of who you are and to ignore it would be to ignore an important element of the whole “you.” So embrace it. Accept it. Carry it with you. Hold it dear rather than bury it deep where it can do
the-only-cure-for-grief-is-actionmore damage. I believe that in each of our defeats there is a victory. In every mistake a lesson to be learned. The new year represents a new dawn and an opportunity to take the sum of our experiences and build on them. To create new goals and new aspirations. To find renewed determination to make it better. And in order to do that we need to remember the hurt as much as the pleasure. Let it inspire you. Let it motivate you.

Recognize that life is a mixed bag. Too much sugar isn’t healthy for the body. We need a proper balance of emotions to feel complete. So shed a tear for the losses, share a smile for the gains and look to tomorrow for new opportunities to sore higher than you’ve ever flown. And use these moments of emptiness to remind you of where you’ve been and how amazing it will feel to be full again. Then when you’ve given yourself a chance to take it all in and come to terms with it, it’ll be time to take action and put it all behind you.

Take advantage of this time to reflect on the past year, both good and bad. A new year is right around the corner and anxious to take you on new adventures. Let’s be ready to go and see where we end up!

 

 

 

 

 

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