Navigating the family dynamic after your parents’ divorce can be a minefield, let alone during the holidays. Anxiety over deciding who are you going to spend the holidays with and not hurting anyone’s feelings can make it hard to focus on anything.
Though this article won’t tell you which side of the family to spend New Year with, scroll down for some tips on asserting healthy boundaries, even to your parents, and adapting to this change in routine.
Whether the separation is recent or old news, you are not responsible for your parents’ happiness. Your actions shouldn’t directly affect their conflict, and if your parents unfairly place that burden on you, try to remember that you are not a part of their marriage.
Your parents love you, but may simply be using ineffective methods to sort out their issues. Their wanting to place blame may even be contributing to their marital strife… Either way, you have the right to remove yourself from their personal conflict.
The least-risky way to do this is just through clear communication. If you feel pressured to intervene in their relationship, or have been feeling overwhelmed or anxious in the middle of your parents’ dispute… talk to them. Don’t make them feel accused or blamed, but let them know what your needs are, and that you may have to prioritize yourself this holiday season.
Your parents probably don’t want to hurt you or cause anxiety during this jolly time of year. They’re just humans, too, and the dissolution of a major relationship can stress people in ways they don’t know how to cope with.
If you’re up for it, once you’ve explained your boundaries and proper role in your parents’ conflict, it couldn’t hurt to share resources to help each of them through this taxing time.
Losing a longtime partner stays with a person – whether it’s happening now, or they’ve been divorced for 20 years. It is still OK to assist your parents as individuals you love, just not as warring sides that expect you to choose your allegiance.
After a divorce, old holiday traditions may no longer ‘fit’ into your celebration. When you don’t have enough people for a favorite board game, or the Christmas seating arrangement doesn’t work anymore, get creative.
By creating new traditions, you’re proactively working toward your own happiness. Also importantly, you leave space for good memories of old traditions. If you kept up the same routine, just missing a person, that might highlight their absence or uncomfortable memories.
It might not be the same, but accepting that this is your new family dynamic can help set realistic expectations for future holidays. Embrace new traditions to avoid being swamped by negative feelings about the past – be proud of forgiving and letting go.
Remember that you are not in the minority when it comes to having divorced parents! Talking to people who are going through similar struggles helps. Just knowing that you are not alone in this stressful family situation can be comforting.
The holidays should be a joyful, pleasant time filled with food, love, and new beginnings! Take care of yourself first, and it’ll be smooth sailing past New Years.