Christmas in a Divorced Family: A Survival Guide

It’s the Festive Season and along with the standard cheer, I happen to be feeling a bit nostalgic and filled with the spirit of giving. You know peace on earth, good will toward men, and all that sort of thing and it’s in that spirit that I’m writing today’s entry. I’m the child of divorced parents and I have firsthand knowledge of how tough it can be for a kid especially around the holidays, so I’m offering to today’s young people some knowledge that I wish someone had shared with me when I was young. Even if you’re not a young person please feel free to keep reading anyway and share this post with anybody who might benefit from it. If nothing else, this might be worth a couple nyucks.

So the Dalmatian is supposed to be next to my aunt’s firefighter Santa, but each year my mom and I make a game of moving the dog so he’s sniffing something inappropriate

Everybody and their brother is telling you that the reason your parents stopped getting along had nothing to do with you and sometimes no matter how hard we try things just don’t work out. You’re probably really sick of hearing that, so I’ll start with this: Remember that you are a person with feelings. You are not a bargaining chip, a go-between, or a pawn for one parent to use against the other. If you think for even a second that one or both of your parents are using you to get to each other, you’re within your rights to call them on it. The truth is adults aren’t perfect and they sometimes get wrapped up in their own things and just need a gentle reminder that they’re not the only ones going through this, so remind them gently.

You might be angry at one or both of your parents and that’s okay. You’re entitled to your feelings, but it’s Christmas. So maybe just for one day you put the bad feelings aside and just spend time with them. Spoiler alert: Your parents aren’t going to live forever no matter how much you want them to and you’re going to regret the time that you didn’t spend with them a lot more than the time you did.

Making faces at the dinner table w/my niece. #adulting

Now let’s talk about how you’re going to survive this. Your strategy will depend on how your family does Christmas. Ideally, one of your parents will have you for Christmas Eve and the other for Christmas Day. This way you get the full experience of breakfast, presents, dinner, etc. without having to do it in a compressed timeframe. Also added bonus, you get to open at least some of your gifts a day earlier. Having divorced parents is a tough situation, so you’ll want look for any silver lining you can find.

However if your family is like mine you’ll be with one parent for Christmas Eve into Christmas Day early afternoon and then the other Christmas afternoon into the next day, possibly the weekend depending on how the calendar falls. I’m not going to lie to you, this has a way of turning a holiday into a freakin’ endurance trial and it just might suck all of the joy out of Christmas if you let it. The key is not to let it.

Bubba loves Christmas. He spends hours staring at the tree

Tip #1: A day like this is incredibly long and even with a young metabolism, it is exhausting. Be aware that you will be tired and plan ahead by getting plenty of rest on Christmas Eve, even if that means going to bed a little earlier than usual. Trust me this ounce of preparation will be totally worth it.

Tip #2: Eat a good breakfast, but don’t go crazy. You’re going to have an epically huge and also I’ll say it again incredibly long day. You’re going to need a crap-ton of energy, so make sure you give your body enough fuel, but don’t forget you’ll be eating two holiday dinners and two desserts and the last thing you want is an upset stomach.

More inappropriateness involving a ceramic Dalmation.

Tip #3: Pace yourself. I know all your friends are jealous because you’re getting two Christmases, but you and I know it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. What they don’t realize is that your Christmas Day is going to be a marathon whereas their single Christmas is more of a sprint. So conserve your energy because believe me you’re going to need it.

Tip #4: Take a nap. Heck, take multiple naps. I’ll say it again, your day is going to be long and tiring and you don’t want to run out of gas before it’s even time to head to Christmas Part II at your other parent’s house. Cat naps are perfectly acceptable and if your cat decides to nap on you while you nap like mine did, so much the better…until the catnip you gave her kicks in and she gets all goofy and starts pawing you and walking across your head because she wants you to feed her because she has the catnip munchies. Ahhh memories…

My niece playing with the stuffed dolphin and marine animal vet play set I get her. That’s me for the aunting win.

Tip #5: Now we get to the most important thing I can possibly tell you and yes, this will sound ridiculous, but remember to have fun. I have been in your shoes and it sucks that your parents got divorced and the old cliché is true, the kids always suffer the most and I cannot tell you how sorry I am. I don’t wish for anybody to go through it, but just for one day that comes only once a year, forget all about that. Forget the fights you overheard or maybe still overhear. Remember that you’re not going to be young forever and just enjoy the time you have with your family all together now; well mostly all together anyway, because one day you’re going to be an adult and you’re going to look back on what Christmas was like for you as a kid and I promise you that you are going to miss these days. Just enjoy the moment and remember what the season is all about.


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