Holidays Painful for Children of Divorced Parents
Posted December 23, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST
RALEIGH — Most people spend time with their families over the holidays, but for families in which a divorce has occurred, the holidays can be especially difficult for children. Frequently they are in the middle of a battle over who gets the kids.
Divorce lawyers and therapists get a lot of frantic calls at this time of year from parents who are battling with their ex-spouses over their children. Parents get sentimental and they want to be with their children. During the holidays resulting conflicts can get ugly.
Gail Killough only has a picture of her 17-year-old daughter Joy to keep her company over the holidays this year, because Gail's father John Myers has the real thing.
Although the couple has joint custody, John says their daughter Joy doesn't want to be with her mother and he won't force her to.
For Joy, the choice appears to lie somewhere in between the two sides.
Kids like Joy are often stuck in the middle between divorced parents. Counselors such as Family Therapist Dianne Occhetti say this type of emotional tug of war can be devastating to a child.
Attorney Mark Sullivan says family lawyers also become immersed in these controversies. He suggests parents communicate and come up with a fair way to divide the child's time.
Lawyers and therapists suggest having a definite plan in place concerning the children's whereabouts during the holidays, including specific times for exchanges.
It's important,they say, for everyone to know the plan and to stick to it. That builds trust between the parents and gives the kids some stability. Coming up with the plan well in advance of the holidays also helps everyone avoid additional stress.