Holiday Horrors and the Adult Child of Divorce

By: Rebecca
Last Update: November 24, 2016

According to my calendar, it is almost that time of year again...the dreaded holidays. There are few things worse for the adult dealing with parents that are divorced or divorcing than the holiday season.

The holiday season is fraught with all kinds of obstacles, the first one being the transition of any traditions where the entire family was together. The second one is dealing with divorced grandparents and preserving some sense of stability for the grandchildren, and then there are many other challenges that come maybe accepting the person your parent committed adultery with at the holiday table.

It's a mess of emotions, competing loyalties, and a sense of feeling torn. My brother said to me once, "It was all a lie, our childhood was based on a lie." Maybe, or maybe people just change, but either way this is a common theme I hear from adults in my coaching practice. I'm now starting to hear similar things from the parents of these adults, who are seeking to make things better for themselves and their adult kids.

There's been a lot of great writing on Divorce Magazine about adult kids of divorce and the issues we experience. I am so happy to see others taking up the baton of this issue. I have done some writing on this as well, like my post about the holidays and your parents' divorce, but I think it's good to honor the contributions of others to the plight of the adult child of divorce. There used to be a huge gap in the literature, but it seems with the popularity of grey divorce, this is changing. 

I've already discussed some tips for the holidays, but here are some other tips that I'd like to leave you with for avoiding a holiday horror....

1. Remember you're an adult now

One of my favorite things about being an adult is not having to attend every argument to which I am invited. I think I have said that a million times these last two weeks. Remember that in being an adult, you have the power to start new traditions. Have the holidays at your home and invite people to come that you want to see, or just have your own household. You don't have to engage in the conflict and drama of your parents' lives. Give yourself permission to be empowered to make good decisions for yourself and your mental health.

2. Make a crazy box if you need to

I had a client call me crying very early in my coaching practice. She was talking about how the holidays were coming and her parents were driving her crazy. I asked her what was going on and then I asked her, "What on that list belongs to you?" She said that none of it did when she thought about it. I encouraged her to make a crazy box, which I think I explained in a previous post, and then give it to the person. She called me after that and said it made her feel so much better to take that inventory and then return the crazy to sender. Remember, you don't have to own anyone else's stuff anymore, you're an adult.

3. Make choices and consequences you can live with

All of life is a series of choices and consequences. I tell that to my children every day, and it is true. The trick is to make choices that you can live with the consequences to. Of course, sometimes we have to live with the consequences of the choices others make, but that's another post entirely. If you can't handle the anxiety attack of dealing with both or even one parent, let them know and then go on and do what you need to do. Don't do things that hurt you, but make sure you understand what the consequences are and that you can live with them.

Remember, the holidays don't have to be a time of horror, though often they are because the expectation is, as an adult, you can handle everything, including fighting parents or not seeing them during the holidays. Make decisions that are good for you, and if you're a parent reading this, don't judge your children for their decisions. 

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