For some, the holidays are anything but happy

Be kind. Be gentle. Be understanding. Be accepting. Be generous of spirit.

‘Tis the season all right.

As a social worker who sees many separated parents in dispute about the care of their children between them, Christmas time is a busy and conflict laden time of year.

Referrals are always up and service is most frequently for help determining the residential schedule over Christmas. The money that was to go for gift giving is shared between the lawyers and myself or my colleagues as we see parents in conflict figure out how and when the children’s time with them will be divvied up. Not only are we busy, but so too the court system as parents file what they believe to be emergency motions seeking the Judge to make a decree of a solution.

For most, a judge’s decree or an agreement reached through mediation or collaborative law or lawyer assisted negotiation will be sufficient to help the parents manage the time. For others conflict will still erupt on the holiday, very often Christmas day itself.

I will return to my office after a few days away to listen to messages and read emails with one parents blasting about the other parent, police involvement, need for contempt orders and abject hatred about the untrustworthy other. Often I will receive emails from both parents saying essentially the same thing albeit with some nuances to the details so that all blame is ascribed to the other. Rarely though do I hear about the impact of these events on the children. That actually comes much later.

Apart from the frequent behavioral, mental health and academic difficulties these children surface with along the way, come adulthood I am visited by these then adult children with their new partner in tow.

They come because this now adult child needs help to explain to the new partner why they don’t want to celebrate Christmas or why they don’t want to visit any parents on Christmas.

Given their traumatic experiences of Christmas in childhood, who could blame them. Anxiety about Christmas still grips them. From their perspective, Christmas is dangerous and hence something to be avoided. This, by the way, is not only an outcome for children of high conflict separated parents, but also seen in intact families where domestic violence is a factor and in families where parental alcoholism is a factor or in families where there is significant parental conflict, and/or abuse or neglect of the children.

Christmas isn’t the Hallmark memory for many and for them, the Christmas season is a frightful and in view of the positive experiences of others, even a confusing time of year.

This year, be mindful that your partner, your friend, your colleague, your neighbour, may not be relying on the same memories as you this season.

If someone feels or looks at odds please appreciate that their recollections at this time of year may be traumatic. Don’t push, don’t argue. Support and appreciate we have different childhood experiences that color our view of the season and our reaction to it.  Perhaps offer them a good experience.

Be kind. Be gentle. Be understanding. Be accepting. Be generous of spirit. Help build new memories from hence forward.

 

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

Social Worker

Just Posted

UPDATE: Mudslides close Highway 1 between Hope and Chilliwack

Eastbound lane not expected to reopen until Saturday afternoon.

Volunteers risk their lives to save others

SAR training prepares them for the job

Many moving parts to economic development

Tourism is only part of the answer

Window art a sign of the season

B.C. artist paints windows across the province

VIDEO: Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival

This year’s event featured six stops, including viewing points and activity centres.

An adopted cat is the best 10 pounds you’ll gain this season

BC SPCA encouraging families to add a forever feline friend during adoption event Nov. 24 to Dec. 3

Uber official says public needs to push for ridesharing in B.C.

Mike van Hemmen tells Kelowna Chamber of commerce ridesharing would be ‘win-win-win’

B.C. co-ops relieved with Ottawa’s housing strategy

Federal government to have a new co-operative housing funding model in place by 2020

B.C. NDP referendum plan sparks legislature battle

David Eby says public will decide on proportional referendum

Hammy has been freed of his threads, a purple antler remains

The iconic Prince Rupert buck with a piece of hammock attached to his antlers was caught by COs

Court adjourned again for man linked to Shuswap farm where human remains found

Curtis Sagmoen will appear back in court on Dec. 14

B.C. family advocating for drug decriminalization following death of son

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has noted the New Democrats would decriminalize personal possession of all drugs

God of thunder sends letter to Delta Police

Chief Neil Dubord shared a letter from Thor that included drawings of all the DPD’s vehicles

Most Read