Local News

Divorce Makes Holidays Difficult

Posted December 14, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— The holidays are usually pictured as a time for families to get together for shopping, cookie baking, wrapping packages, going to church and generally spending time in each other's company.

But for families that have undergone a divorce or separation, the spirit of the season can be stressful. Children are often expected to celebrate holidays in more than one place to satisfy all the relatives. They literally have to go in different directions, and if grandparents enter the equation, it can be four destinations -- all in a short period of time.

But it's not just the children who feel the loneliness. Parents, whether they are custodial or non-custodial, can feel an acute loss of the family unit.

Jeff Goldman, a divorced father, said of his relatives, "They kind of think I'm the bad guy. They invite my ex and my children when they get a chance -- but I haven't had a turkey there yet."

For Lynne Wixom the hardest thing was getting used to the fact that the entire family wouldn't be together on Christmas to open presents.

To ease their stress or to distract themselves, divorced parents often turn to fun activities. The organization Parents Without Partners is one such group that sponsors events during the holidays to reduce loneliness and to offer support.

Psychologist Russ Newman suggests that, despite a divorce, people should create new traditions that can be looked forward to annually by both adults and children.

A totally stress-free holiday probably is unrealistic -- for everyone, no matter their marital situation. But planning can help divorced families ward off some problems.