At this time of year we wish for good will and peace on Earth. But what about when you can’t even guarantee peace within your own family?
by Deb Silverthorn
When your children have more than one home, “home for the holidays” can get complicated and potentially lead to hurt feelings. Whether it’s Christmas Eve at Dad’s and the morning under the tree at Mom’s or splitting the eight nights of Hanukkah between two households, the best gift you can give your children—and yourself—is a season of peace and joy.
With blended families, the good news is the holiday calendar is full of time to be together and to find a way to make your important childhood traditions, a part of your own children’s lives. In all families, whole or divided, memories from the holidays will come from a healthy mix of “yours, mine, and ours” celebrations.
“The winter holidays are about being thankful for all we have—not for focusing on what isn’t working,” said Jim Mueller, a family law specialist and managing partner with the firm of Verner, Brumley, Mueller and Parker. “Parents have to flashback to when you first got together because there was a time you were cohesive, friendly, even in love. That love may be gone, but the respect for the children really needs to come out front and center. If all parties act this way, it makes for a holiday to celebrate.”
“It’s important to remember that the holidays, and all of life, are not out of a storybook—but are your own story that you write for yourselves. The situation you are in may not be how you envisioned it but just revision it,” said Mueller, the father of two young children. “Make it about being together.”
During the holidays, what matters is how you act and what you say. “Focus on how you want the children to be treated. Try and stop thinking about what your ex is doing wrong and above all, do not trash your ex to the children, who crave a positive environment,” said Mueller. “When it comes to teens, do your best to redirect attention to the environment that you want to create, and if they are not going to participate, don’t force the situation. Many judges will actually create a custody schedule wherein older teenagers (i.e. 15 years of age and older) are allowed input, so make sure you foster the peaceful setting where your child will want to celebrate the holidays.”
Research shows that one of the greatest detriments that can befall a child is conflict between the parents. “It’s critical to allow our children to grow up with as much peace and harmony as possible in order for them to develop well,” said Dr. Dean Beckloff, whose North Dallas practice, Beckloff Pediatric Behavioral Center, is dedicated to helping kids become kids again. “Many parents don’t realize their children’s suffering and the impact that will remain from living in homes with high levels of stress and disdain between parents.”
Remember, Santa is a flexible guy—he can get everywhere he has to be—and Hanukkah lasts for eight nights. The date on the calendar when you celebrate with your children is far more malleable than a child’s heart. Once you accept that it isn’t your “turn,” you have to help your children to have the very best experience they can while with their other parent.
“Keep your eyes on your child and respect the celebrations of the other side of the family too,” said Dr. Beckloff. “You may be in different homes, but co-parenting, focusing on the ‘co,’ and the ‘parenting,’ is critical. Respect and peace are the very best gifts you can give.”
Jim Mueller, managing partner, Verner, Brumley, Mueller and Parker P.C. | vernerbrumley.com
214.526.5234 (Dallas) 972.562.2212 (McKinney)
Dr. Dean Beckloff, Beckloff Pediatric Behavioral Center
drbeckloff.com | 972.250.1700