Navigating a Divorced Holiday Season

The holiday season is both the happiest and roughest time of the year, because of family drama, wondering what to buy everyone for Christmas and dealing with “Have you met anybody on campus yet?” But despite the traditional momentary breakdowns, being together through this season is something to truly be thankful for. In a divorced family on the other hand, it comes with about the same content, just 2x and a tad more emotionally confusing. 

It took me a while to understand that there was more to just having two of everything when having divorced parents. Since my parents split when I was young, around 6 or 7 years old, I knew the drill and did and went as I was told. It was when my older sister went off to college that I finally began hearing and understanding the other side of everything. I was hearing more of the disagreements, plans on when to switch us off, and holiday plans. Before I go any further, I would like to mention that when having divorced parents, there are good and bad moments that come and go. 

Despite a changing schedule of when I would see which parent, the holiday season typically had a distinct rhythm to it. On Thanksgiving Day, my two sisters and I would go with my mom and step-dad to visit my grandfather and uncle for a late lunch. Then we, my sisters and I, would spend the night at my dad’s house as my mom and step-dad shopped for black friday. On Christmas day, my sisters and I would unwrap gifts with my mom and step-dad and then host my grandfather and uncle for a late lunch. The following weekend, we then would spend Christmas with my dad. However, due to multiple things, this rhythm has changed in recent years. 

In recent years, Thanksgiving Day has been spent with my dad, my step-mom and her family, and then black friday shopping with my mom and step-dad. This change was mostly due to my grandfather aging and not wanting to mess with the get-up of cooking a meal for seven. Christmas changed by adding my step-mom’s family onto the gift list, as well as adding a pit stop with my step-dad’s family. This new pit stop was on Christmas Eve, and my sisters and I, along with my mom and step-dad, would spend the evening with his family, unwrapping gifts, eating together and playing games. In the face of all these changes, the idea of family and the love behind it only grew. 

Through my experience, the holiday season with divorced parents may seem like choosing a “side,” but it’s more about ensuring time spent together will happen. There is no “side” I would rather spend a holiday with because I look forward to traditions with each. From one divorced child to the other, here are a few general tips of navigating an emotional season.

 

  • Remember all the love that supports you

    • No matter how amiable or messy the separation was, I can assure you that each parent and “new” family members deeply love you. Keep this in mind when having to drive to each family’s event, and going through the “So do you have a boyfriend yet” a thousand times. 

  • While trying to keep everyone’s feelings intact, don’t forget about your own

    • Again, the family you are spending whatever holiday with just wants to spend as much time with you as they can. So as everyone may be fighting for your time, remember that you can’t be everywhere at once, but you can control your schedule to maximize your time with each family.

  • Be grateful for the multitude of food that is now yours

    • That third Thanksgiving meal in a row has your stomach trained like a champ. By having multiple events to go to, the more leftovers there are with your name on them; just plead them with the broke college student story.

  • Wanting to deflect questions? Go help in the kitchen

    • This goes for any family situation. “How did the semester go,” “Have you met any cute boys,” “Are you eating,” “Have you been working out,” just go to the kitchen and leave it all in the living room.

Divorced family or not, the holiday season is drama-filled, but filled with thankfulness. Whether you are gathering around a table or tree, the time and love spent together is unforgettable.