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Aprés Divorce: Competing with the “Other” Christmas

I’ll never forget my first year of two Christmases. Gifts on gift on gifts! I received everything that I ever wanted and more. (Plus, the same gift twice a few times, too!) This unforgettable Christmas was a holiday delight, even if it was a reward for suffering through a messy divorce or an attempt to win me over. Looking back, I realized that both my parents were probably stressed out of their minds trying to make a great day at a terrible point in time. There are a lot of things divorced parents must consider before Christmas.

Christmas has the tendency to truly bring out the best in people …or the worst. It is common for divorced parents to feel a need to compete with each over over the holidays even if that is not what they necessarily want to do. I would say this particularly happens when parents are in the divorce process and fighting for custody. (Ah, the memories!) It is a scary thought that the more absent or incompetent parent can win days of custody just because they have more dollars to spend when you have mere pennies.

The problem with competition is that it brings anger and tension, the exact opposite of holiday cheer. Not only will this upset the kids and make them feel caught in the middle, they might end up blaming themselves. Instead, focus on creating memories by doing activities rather than just stacking materialistic gifts. Go look at holiday lights, decorate ginger bread houses, and play board games right next to the chestnuts roasting by an open fire. Trust your children will someday understand, but for now, give them something truly rememberable.

One of my parents splurged so much on Christmas by giving me a drum set, computer, and TV. At the end of the day, I felt empty because there was no real relationship that existed between us. I was young and egotistical, and hated cards with no money in them, but I always wandered back to the parent who gave me true affection.

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