December Dilemmas

Sometimes it is difficult to separate the best interest of the minor child from our own best interests.  Here is a secret: they are very seldom the same thing.  While you are going through (or about to go through) a divorce or legal separation is a time to be extra cautious about keeping everyone’s interests clearly delineated.

If, for example, you would rather have your children with their dad on Christmas Eve – since that’s the night you happen to have a date – and with your family on Christmas day; that sounds fine. It sounds like the best interest of the kids, since they get part of the holiday with each of their parents.  But this is only true if it will result in the children feeling like the holiday is easy and fun.  If it turns out that Christmas Day with Dad is what would really work better, then that is the best interest of the children.  Whether or not you have already bought a new dress to wear on the 24th.

Similarly, and (perhaps) counter to all of your other instincts, this is NOT the time of year to suddenly “get religion.”  If you have never ever taken your kids to church for a Christmas mass before (or to synagogue for a menorah lighting) and you are in the process of getting divorced, this is probably NOT the year to decide to introduce them to the idea.  It will be misunderstood and mostly unwelcome, on all fronts.

If you really want to start teaching your children about the benefits of organized religion, wait until the first weekend in January; and start attending regularly for a while after that (maybe once a month for starters?), but not all at once.   That way, by next December everyone, on all sides, will be ready for them to attend religious services.

If you are in a mixed marriage, and have gone along with your spouse’s  religion (or no religion) until now, you may be in a position to take your kids to a new event this holiday season for the first time: carolling? dreideling?  But it might not be in the best interests of the children to do so.  Maybe this is not the year to begin new traditions.  Remember, there are holidays of all religions throughout the year.  You do not want to accidentally use this particular holiday season as provocation in an unsettled time. 

EXCEPTION:  If you and your spouse can look past the fact that you are divorcing and discuss the relative merits of a new religious experience this year — and reach consensus — then by all means bring some extra meaning into this frantic time of year.  But please do not act unilaterally.   No matter how  well-intentioned you may be, a rogue decision about your children’s religious upbringing will be perceived as an act of warfare.

What We Love:  Finding new and beneficial ways of connecting with your children during an unsettling time . . . just not at the expense of the overall peace you are establishing.

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Published by Sharon Oberst DeFala

Sharon Oberst DeFala has practiced low-impact safe divorce since 1992.

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