Posts Tagged: family

The Divorced Family Christmas

Christmas is a sentimental time of the year.  For many divorced parents it’s a painful reminder of the gap between the ideal family life we had wanted and the reality of the strains and severed relationships that are a part of divorce and separation.  Here are some tips on how a parent can cope this time of year:

  1. Make plans for the holidays with your ex well in advance.  If this is not a part of your separation agreement or if this is a difficult topic consider mediation. Children need stability and predictability.  Advance planning helps them get their head around how the holiday will unfold and should reduce any potential anger and anxiety.
  2. Try alternating years so that both parents get the joy of opening gifts on Christmas day.
  3. If your children are travelling with the other parent over the holiday, create a “mock Christmas” to be celebrated like the real thing with all the traditions such as Christmas decorations and a Christmas tree, just held on a different date
  4. If this is the first Christmas you are not together as a family, try creating new traditions so that you don’t experience the absence of one parent while doing all the same ole holiday things.  Ask your children for input.  My kids wanted all new ornaments on the Christmas tree as a “fresh new start” so as to not look sentimentally at the family ornaments from the past.
  5. If this is your first Christmas alone without your children, reach out to your extended family and join their festivities.  You should have supportive people around you. You could volunteer at a shelter or visit friends, basically anything is better than being home alone and sad.
  6. You can’t win a child’s love with material objects.  Yes, it’s gratifying to see the look of joy on your child’s face as they open gifts, but don’t try to outdo or compensate/apologize with gifts.
  7. It’s generally not recommended that you include your new partner in the first family Christmas since the divorce/separation.   If you are in a serious relationship, ask you children how they would feel if you invited your new friend over for some part of the day.   Their reaction will give you your answer.

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com

 

Tis the Season to be Jolly?

By Lisa Van Meeteren

Tis’ the season to be jolly….yeah right…you can tell that little “diddy” was written about a hundred years ago, before the advent of giant adrenal gland wrecking coffees, the smartphone, and computers that keep us plugged in 24/7. Perhaps when Christmas only lasted for two weeks it really was wonderful and jolly, but now those lyrics ring false when one day we’re carving pumpkins, and the next day ‘BAM!’ the Christmas season in all its stressful glory has begun. So three short Christmases ago I decided to tackle the holiday by avoiding the crowds of cranky, harried, adrenaline filled shoppers and finally conquer my “to do” list early…or so I thought….

The first week in November

I see the best gifts and I am in a good mood! I feel proud of myself every time I buy an item and smugly think, ha! I won’t be amongst the shoppers running around maniacally in December thank you very much. I hide my purchases in the top of my closet. Yes! Progress!

 

The end of November

I am done. DONE! Just have to wrap. And make cookies. And decorate. Oh, and buy new outdoor lights and hostess gifts for the next three parties we’re invited to. Oh and damn, I forgot about stocking stuffers…okay that won’t take long. Breathe. It will be fine. There are still three and a half weeks to go.

 

The first week of December

All of my decorating for Christmas is done! I am out admiring the Christmas decorations in the mall, or at least I’m trying to as my two year old excitedly points out Santa’s village to me. I am a little distracted as I drag him away from the reindeer and into a department store for more holiday shopping. I still need to find those hostess gifts, and stocking stuffers and then I will be done. DONE! I slow down as something catches my eye in a store window. The same item I bought for my husband is on display with a huge 50 PERCENT OFF sign plastered underneath. Why is it that every year, the same item I bought early goes on sale two weeks before Christmas? I take in the rest of display. Oh! He would love that wallet and scarf combo…where was this stuff in November? I drag my now restless two-year old into the store and buy the newly discounted item making a mental note to return the original.

 

The second week of December

Back to the mall to buy stocking stuffers with my toddler in tow, looking none too happy. This time I am armed with more gear then a soldier going into battle; toting along bags of snacks, his favourite trucks, and books. It isn’t easy but I knock the rest of the items off my list only having to stop twice for snacks (I forgot to bring some for me), once for a diaper change, and once to rescue the toy truck that my son somehow managed to wedge underneath a store display. I did it! I’m finished! I feel lighter on the way home, happily humming Christmas songs; unfazed by the person in the car behind me who blasts their horn as I slow down for an elderly woman walking in front of my car. I think of my daughter as we drive past her school, smiling. This is her first real year in grade school with two teachers…crap! I didn’t buy anything for her teachers. Oh no. I also need to buy the unwrapped donation gift for her classroom and then there’s the staff at my son’s pre-school. My good mood deflates faster than a pierced balloon. I’m not done.

 

One week to go!

The presents are wrapped! I haven’t started baking yet, but that’s okay, it’s safer for my pre-Christmas waistline. I am smiling as my daughter arrives home from school, and produces a new book from the library. “I love these!” she says.

“Are they as good as the fairy books?” I ask hinting about the series I bought her for Christmas.

She ponders for a moment. “The what?” she asks.

A tendril of panic starts to wrap itself around my insides. “The fairy books, you know the ones you’ve been asking for, for the past two months!” I laugh, a little too brightly.

“Oh those,” she shrugs. “Dunno. They’re still okay I guess, but these are way better.”

ARGH! I clench my coffee mug so hard that my nails dig into my palms around it.

“What’s the matter? Mom?” she asks.

“Uh, nothing.” I run upstairs to find the gift receipts so that I can return her books and remove them from under the tree. No big deal. I can do this. One week is plenty of time. I just have to finish that writing project I haven’t started still, continue toilet training my two and half year old, call the cable guy about our TV and…the phone rings.

“Hey honey, it’s me,” my husband says.

“Yes?”

He laughs. “Okay…just wanted to let you know my side of the family has decided to do a draw this year! You’re buying for my sister and I have Carrie.”

“In other words I have Carrie and your sister to buy for now too.”

“Thanks! That’d be great. Did you get Mason’s gift yet? They’re coming in a couple of days so they can pick up everything then.”

“What? Oh, crap forgot about him.” He is the latest addition to the clan, at five months old, and since he was only a blip on the embryo horizon the preceding holiday, I apparently erased him from my memory.

“Okay, gotta run and I’m going to be late tonight. We’re really busy.”

I hang up and try not to swear. My kids begin a game that involves tossing toy cars down the stairs to see which one will win. “SANTA IS WATCHING YOU!” I yell, running up the stairs. “Do you guys want Santa to come?”

“Mom?” My daughter puts her hand on my arm gently.

“Yes?” I snap.

“Even if Santa doesn’t come, I’ll still love him, and I’ll still love Christmas.” I hug her. I’m sure they are just acting up because I’ve been ignoring them to get everything done.

“Let’s go look at the lights,” I say. It is a tradition I started with the kids this year. We walk around the neighbourhood admiring the Christmas lights each of us pointing out our favourites.

“Yay!” Both children cry in unison. With all of the things I have left to do I shouldn’t really be going anywhere, but I suppose the list can wait.

As they run around the block excitedly pointing out inflatable snowmen and twinkling reindeer, their cheeks rosy and their smiles bright, I think, this is what matters. This is what makes the season ‘jolly.’ This is what the old carols are singing about. I breathe in the crisp clean air and erase my ‘to do’ list from my head. Things will get done, they always do, and if they don’t it’s not what I will remember many Christmases from now. No the rushing, the mayhem, and the ever expanding list of things that didn’t get done will be a distant memory but these moments of joy will be strongly etched in my mind. Yes, I resign; tis definitely the season to be jolly.

How do you deal with holiday stress and remember to be jolly?

 

About the Author

Lisa Van Meeteren is the mother of two children, ages 5 and 9. She works as a copywriter and has just completed a novel!

The PANK Perspective: First Day of Kindergarten

My 4 year old nephew had his first day at public school the other day. In the weeks leading up to his first day, his parents said his mood changed from excitement to hesitation as the days drew nearer. Going to full day kindergarten is a big transition for any kid, and with my nephew being somewhat reserved at times, I was worried that he would have anxiety about attending. You see, I’m a worry-wart. I think about things that I just shouldn’t spend time thinking about.

“What if some of the kids are mean to him?”

“What if he has an accident because he’s too nervous to speak up about going to use the washroom?”

“Will he like his teachers?”

Then I thought, if I feel like this as his aunt, how the heck does his mother feel? She uses humor to express her emotions and laughed about how “he will be someone else’s worry for a few hours a day.” With having an 8 month old to look after she joked about having a break from my oldest nephew. But I know that she’s struggling with letting him go and wondering some of the same things I am. How could she not?

On the first day of full day kindergarten my nephew was excited, and all of his questions and potential fears of going to school faded as soon as he met some of his classmates. I needed to remember that he’s not the only 4 year old entering the big world of public school (and of germs and lice…eek!) Many parents had to bid adieu to the fact that their child was no longer confined to the family ‘bubble’. Their teachers, classmates and even parents of their classmates will have an effect on them. They will learn new things along with bad habits and manners. They will become more independent. They will stumble, but they will also climb.

I read an article the other day from Huffington Post that was written by a Mom of a kid going to Kindergarten for the first time. She wrote about the transition of being pregnant to caring for a newborn, then a toddler and now for a child that is entering the education system. She asked, “How did we get here?” and I have wondered that this summer as I watched my nephew play. How is he old enough to be going to school? How did he get so big so fast? I remember the day he was born like it was yesterday. So much has changed in my life since that wonderful day, but it sure doesn’t feel like 4 years ago.

Where did the time go?

Time flies.

Did you have a child that started full day kindergarten this year? How did you feel about this transition?

 

About the Author:

Diane Morris is a PANK; Professional Aunt, No Kids and works for Mabel’s Labels as the Sales Coordinator. She’s an Aunt to two boys, and an “Auntie” to her boyfriend’s niece and nephew. She’s a sucker for romance, country music and peanut butter.

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