Did you know that Christmas is a peak time for couples to end their relationships? The most wonderful time of the year for some can be a time of family disharmony for others.
In the celebrity world, famous people tend to announce their divorces between Christmas and New Year – firstly, because there is less focus on the news cycle, and secondly, because Christmas has been the last straw for them (something non-famous couples are just as likely to experience).
Heading for Divorce in the Holiday Season
The first working Monday in January is known as ‘Divorce Day’ for some law firms, as it’s when couples are statistically most likely to start divorce proceedings. Think about it: either you’ve bottled up emotions throughout the season for the sake of children and the extended family, or it’s been an openly miserable holiday period for everyone involved.
The idea of starting again in a new year is also tempting for many unhappy couples, as you assess your achievements and failures from the past 12 months, and plan for the year ahead. Ending a difficult relationship at the close of 2018 means you can begin 2019 with a clean slate.
Starting a new year in therapy may seem grim to those who’ve never tried it before, but the pain and disorientation of a family break-up can often be eased with family therapy or individual treatment. Rather than fighting over the DVD collection or deciding who keeps the car, therapy is a chance to focus on emotional resilience rather than material things. It also teaches you practical ways to cope with whatever may come your way.
The First Christmas after a Family Break-Up
Of course, there will be some children facing their first Christmas spread across two homes, with two sets of parents, and this comes with its own pressures for everyone involved. Mums and dads can feel torn between wanting to shower their children with gifts and feeling those tightened purse strings. Though your child will have written a long Christmas list, the most important gifts can’t be bought with money: time, attention and love truly matter more to a child than the latest gadget. Attending their school concert, taking them carol singing or watching Christmas films on TV aren’t grand gestures, but they mean a lot.
This festive season gives separated parents the perfect opportunity to shelve their squabbles with each other and focus on their children’s needs. Many parents find it helps to take it in turns to host their child for Christmas Day – whoever has the kids this year will have them on other days when Christmas 2019 comes around. Though the focus will always be on 25th December, there’s nothing to stop you having an earlier or later celebration with the kids.
Remember that the first few years of breaking away from familiarity will feel strange for a child, having built up memories of Christmas in a certain house, with a certain routine. Establishing a new routine will take time and patience, but remind them it’s okay to remember past Christmases and share happy memories whilst making new ones. Eventually there may be new partners and step-children to add to the mix as well, and the festive period will evolve as the whole family gets older. All you can do is be flexible and create the kind of holiday season that works for your family, remembering that the best presents can’t be bought.
Written by guest contributor Polly Allen for Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk).