The holidays can be a difficult time for adult children to manage when they have divorced parents. When you are a young adult, you are independent enough to make your own decisions on where and when you want to celebrate with your family. Every family dynamic is different, but there are some common struggles that adults with divorced parents come across over the holiday season.
The struggle is real
When you were a child of divorced parents, you got to enjoy double the amount of presents and it was your parents’ job to coordinate when you went where. As an adult, it is now your responsibility to decide if you can make it to both your parents’ celebrations. If your parents live a long distance from each other then it may be impossible to celebrate the holiday with both of them each year. You may need to alternate years. Another struggle as an adult is if you are in a relationship and your partner’s parents are divorced. Then you and your partner have the responsibility of deciding between multiple homes to celebrate at. Which do you pick?
The emotional toll
You may experience a large range of emotions during the holiday season. If you spend more time with one parent than the other, you may experience guilt. This is a common emotion to feel when you are unsure if you have made the right decision. As an example, this year you may have chosen to spend Thanksgiving at your mom’s and Christmas at your dad’s. On Thanksgiving day, you could be laying on the couch in a food coma scrolling through your Facebook and you see your dad’s side of the family celebrating without you. The guilt feeling may roll in and you may find yourself wishing you could be in two places at the same time.
Another emotion you may feel is agitation. You could feel agitated with your parents for getting a divorce in the first place and causing you to make these decisions. It feels unfair that you have friends who have one home to travel to during the holidays. Meanwhile, you are struggling with creating a plan so that you can accommodate both of your parents. The agitation can creep in when you start to realize that the holiday time is more about pleasing your parents than yourself.
Anchor Therapy is a counseling center in Hoboken, NJ with psychotherapists specialized in helping children, teens, and adults.
How to manage with children of your own
If you’re an adult child of divorce, and you have children of your own, the holidays may be affected when trying to see your children’s divorced grandparents. Maybe your parents were chill with which home you celebrated the holidays in the past, but once they become grandparents they will want to celebrate the holidays with the excitement and love from their grandchildren. Having your kids around always brings a new excitement to the holidays. It is a time to teach them traditions that have been passed down in your family.
The best way to manage the holidays with children is to make the decisions for them. Remember when you were younger and how carefree the holidays were when you were just told where to go when. As an adult, it is now your responsibility to make those decisions so that your children don’t have to. And whatever you decide to do for the holidays, stick with it. Maybe this year you need a break from it all and decide to go on a family vacation with just your kids. Maybe you decide to drive hours the day after Thanksgiving so that you can eat a second meal with the other grandparent. Whatever you decide on, tell your kids in advance so that they know the plan.
The earlier in the year that you make your holiday plans, the better. This gives your parents time to come to terms with your plan and be okay with it. It also gives them time to plan what they want to do for the holiday. This also give you and your children time to plan what to expect this holiday season.
Coping with the holiday stress
Whether it is from traveling constantly between homes during the holidays, or you are in one place, you are likely to experience some stress. The holidays usually bring together families who are not accustomed to being on top of each other all day. As an adult, you may feel like a kid again being home. This may cause your parent to feel anger that you are not helping out, which may make you feel like the rebellious teen you once were. Being around parents during the holidays has proven to have adults regress back to how they acted when they lived at home.
If you are starting to feel agitated or stressed, then it is important to take a step away for a moment. You may have a room to escape to or maybe your parent turned it into an exercise room. But take a moment away from others to breathe deeply. Remind yourself that you are a strong and independent adult that functions just fine on your own. Maybe take a few minutes to text or call someone to vent about your stress of being back home. That person can probably relate. Then re-enter the shared living space feeling a bit more calm.
For more ways on how to cope with the holiday stress check out our last holiday article: 7 Ways to Stay Sane When Celebrating The Holidays With Divorced Parents
The holidays can be an overwhelming time for anyone. This is usually a popular time to see a therapist to help you through the holiday stress.
At Anchor Therapy, in downtown Hoboken, our psychotherapist Courtney Glashow, LCSW has extended her hours to see clients in-person or for telehealth (video/phone) sessions. Courtney is licensed in both New Jersey and New York which means she can see anyone in either state for telehealth/online sessions. Feel free to reach out with any questions by filling out the form below.
Courtney Glashow, LCSW
is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Hoboken, New Jersey. She specializes in helping children, teens, and adults with anxiety and depression through counseling. Courtney can help NY or NJ residents through telehealth (video/phone) therapy sessions as well.