Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Effects of Divorce on the Holidays

The holidays for families can be a joyful time or a stressful time, a peaceful time or a painful time and/or all of the above. Those emotions can be turned up exponentially in families who have experienced divorce and/or divorce and remarriage. I am speaking from experience on all sides of this issue. I know what it's like to have a step mother and what it's like to be divorced, remarried and become a step dad and my wife becoming a step mom to my daughters..

The complexity of making plans with family, in-laws, ex-spouses over the holidays can be mind boggling, frustrating, exasperating, fill-in the blank for those of you who know what I am talking about.

In a traditional marriage situation, you will have one father and one mother and two sets of grandparents. The struggle during the holidays comes when making plans to celebrate with your family. ie Dad, Mom and Children together and then maybe if/when/where we will celebrate with the grandparents.

In a divorced and remarried situation, you have the planning of an event for: Dad and Children OR Mom and Children, and deciding which parent gets the children and when, then planning for what could still be 2 sets of grandparents until Dad or Mom gets remarried. If either Mom or Dad or both get remarried, then add another set of grandparents. If both Mom and Dad get remarried the children now have 4 sets of grandparents.

This does not account for whether Mom or Dad came from a divorced situation when they were children. If that was the case, it's possible you could add another 2 sets of grand parents who are now great-grand parents to the children. Are you confused, stressed out yet? Do you see how complex this gets? Now try to make your holiday plans AND have everyone get along and cooperate, especially ex-spouses and ex-in laws who may or may not be cooperative with you in your holiday plan making. And mix in the children's desires and emotions of celebrating and/or not wanting to celebrate with step parents and/or step grand parents, instead of their intended biological family unit.

I have basically lived all but 12 years of my 49 year life in some form of the situations mentioned above.I have experience from the child's point of view since age 12, from the married point of view for 5 1/2 years, from a divorced-single father point of view for13 years and now 10 years as a remarried husband and father, step father to two sons and my wife serving also as a step mother to my two daughters.

If I can make one recommendation that has served me well, which I had to experience a lot of pain to figure this out, is to have patience and give grace whenever and wherever possible. There are going to be things that you cannot control. It's obvious to see how complex this issue is even without adding the different ages, personality types and emotions of the people involved. THIS is just another example of why God never intended for our families to live this way and why He hates divorce.

But IF you are living in any of the circumstances I have described, then try your best to bring peace and calm to the situation. Don't force your agenda as a way to get back at your ex-spouse. Don't make your children feel guilty for wanting to spend time with your ex-spouse. Don't use your children as pawns to manipulate your plans. The children never asked for this situation, you did or maybe you didn't, regardless, it's the situation you are in now, so how are you going to make the best of it for the future well being of your family.It's very easy to make a difficult situation worse, by wanting everything to work out your way. But just like our Christian walk, it's the hard road that seems to work out the best. So, the hard road is to try and be the peace-maker, especially when things don't go your way in your plans. Prepare your heart and mind before every holiday and/or special event. And Pray. Pray that "the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7.

For those of us who are in this situation, let's try to make every effort possible, through the power of the Holy Spirit and our Lord Jesus Christ, to break the chain of divorce in our families. This is what I pray for my daughters and step sons and my current and future grand children. I would love to see my grandchildren get married one day and at their weddings, not have to be stressed out or worried about where step mom or step dad has to sit at the wedding ceremony or the reception.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13.

Terry Langenberg

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