by Jennifer Wrubel, LCSW
jwrubel-face-photoThe Kiditor Here:  My parents are divorced.  It happened a long time ago while I was still a baby.        I am lucky because my parents get along and we always figure out ways so everyone is happy during the holidays and even when it’s not holiday time!  This year, I will have a brand new baby brother right around Thanksgiving, so we are all going to be together in my dad’s new place in Brooklyn – even my mom and her boyfriend Mark!  It doesn’t always work out that way, though. Here is a great idea from a guest reporter that you can try if you’re like me and have divorced parents.  Happy Holidays!

As a clinical social worker I support a lot of young people and their families in all different stages of the divorce cycle.  As wonderful as the holiday season is for everyone, it can still be a stressful time of year.  For children of divorce the holidays can be a little more challenging.  Where and with whose side of the family will the holidays be spent?  Often holidays are shared between families and kids are not with both parents each holiday.   I help my clients come to peace with the changing of the family structure and create new holiday traditions.  My goal is to have all family members have acceptance with the changes…..and remind them that holidays for children and parents of divorce are not worse…. they’re just different!   Sometimes it works out even a little better, because if you can work it out….you get double the holidays!

One of my young client’s absolute favorite holidays was Thanksgiving.  Not just because of pecan pie, but because she loved to cook Thanksgiving dinner with her mom.  In preparation of meals for the big day she would pretend she had her own catering business.  She even named the (fake) business Mama and Me Caterers. This specific holiday was always hosted at her parents’  house and all the relatives would come and enjoy this feast!  They made so much food that their relatives started coming with tupperware so they could take home left overs.  It was a big joke in the family….everyone was so thankful…because they did not have to cook for a week after the Thanksgiving meal prepared by “Mama and Me Caterers.”

Then her parents got divorced, as many parents do….after the divorce, Christmas was spent with her mom’s side of the family and Thanksgiving was her dad’s side of the family.  Most of his family lived in Florida, a plane ride away.  She feared this would this be the end of “Mama and Me Caterers.”

She had a class assignment in school about being thankful and it was very difficult for her.  She was not feeling very thankful and was feeling the loss of her favorite holiday and sadness with the change in her family unit.  We focused on Thanksgiving and she realized that the most important part of Thanksgiving was “Mama and Me Caterers.” I asked her if I had a magic wand that would make her thankful, what would have to happen?  She said she would love it if “Mama and Me Caterers” could somehow be back into (fake) business.  So I waved my (fake) magic wand and…created a second Thanksgiving!  Thanksgiving is the always the third Thursday in November.  So we called renamed that one “Thanksgiving Two.”   Then we created “Thanksgiving One” which is now held on the first Saturday in November for her and her mom’s side of the family.

“Mama and Me Caterers” suddenly back in (fake) business,  at full force.  It was the same – and even better!  Family was invited, but now some special, non-family friends  could also come as well which made it even more fun for everyone.  The first year they cooked all the same traditional Thanksgiving food that they used to make before the divorce.  As the years went on they started to get more creative.  Each year they would choose a different country and cook traditional foods from that country.

Even though holidays after divorce can be challenging, they can be just as good or better!  Even if things have changed for your family, you can find ways to be thankful with a little creativity and create new traditions.  *No magic wand required!!