Few things are more frustrating than surviving the holidays when your parents divorce. It’s bad enough that you’re an adult and therefore seen as the confidant of one parent or the other, but it’s also crazy the way that a parent can decide to put you in the middle of their issues with the other parent.
There are a small number of things though that can bring out inappropriate behavior towards adult children the way the holidays can. Sometimes it seems like this season is one giant full moon, and it can be daunting. So, whether you are at the beginning of your adult parent divorce experience, or somewhere in the middle of the process, here are three tips that I give people like us for surviving the holidays.
1. Create your own tradition
Sometimes the only way out of these situations is to have something else to do. If you’re married with children, you might consider inviting both parents to your house (with ground rules of course that are strictly enforced), or issuing an open invitation to any family members that want to come (like I did during the first year). This can be a beautiful way to create a new memory for your family, and can take the stress out of having to visit multiple parents.
2. Make a crazy box
Yes, I said it, make a crazy box. Go to Godiva or whatever chocolate store works for you, and buy some chocolates in a gold box. Eat the chocolates and then save the box. Do this for each parent if necessary, write down everything they are doing that drives you crazy or that is crazy on individual sheets of paper. Put the papers in the box, wrap it with a pretty bow and hand it to them (either in your mind or literally). Don’t forget to mark “return to sender” on it and tell them that you think this is theirs. You don’t need to take in someone else’s crazy. Sometimes this is a light humorous way to at least give yourself levity. I did have a client who gave the box to the person that was driving her crazy; she said it was an amazing experience that she hadn’t expected. I’m not saying you need to do the same, but it can really help with boundary setting to at least put the box together.
3. Go on vacation
If all else fails, make the decision to not be in the area. Create a new tradition, as mentioned previously, of going on a family vacation with your own family (or friends). Remove yourself from the conflict.
Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the vortex around you. The conflict can come in like a tornado and leave nothing but destruction in its path. While your family of origin has changed in structure, it’s not necessary to completely blow it apart. There are many techniques you can use to get through your parents’ divorce and for surviving the holidays, but these three should provide you enough to think about. If you take nothing else from this blog post, at least remember to be gentle with yourself.