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

Linnea Labbee outside the Chilliwack Law Courts on April 1, 2021 on day 16 of her trial in BC Supreme Court. Labbee was convicted April 12 for the fatal hit-and-run of 78-year-old Fourghozaman Firoozian on Dec. 1, 2016. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Sentencing hearing scheduled for 72-year-old Chilliwack woman found guilty in fatal hit-and-run

Crown will seek jail time for Linnea Labbee who struck and killed 78-year-old woman in 2016

Chilliwack Spartans Swim Club coach Justin Daly.
Chilliwack Spartans swim coach Justin Daly wins Rubber Boot Award

Daly was recognized in a vote by fellow coaches in the BC Swim Coaches Association

Dr. Keith Carlson, director of Peace and Reconciliation Centre, will be the MC and moderator for the June 23 webinar Islamophobia: Seeking Solutions for Hate. (Submitted photo)
Seminar presented on Islamophobia: Seeking Solutions for Hate

UFV webinar on June 23 features speakers who will draw on lived experience

The latest data from the BC Centre for Disease Control. (BCCDC graphic)
Chilliwack COVID case count moving towards zero

From a high of 156 around Christmas, Chilliwack’s local health authority reported just 17 last week

The Abbotsford International Airshow is back for 2021 with the ‘SkyDrive’ concept.
Abbotsford International Airshow returns for 2021 with ‘SkyDrive’

New format features a drive-in movie type experience, show set for Aug. 6 to 8

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Ridge Meadows RCMP seized drugs, cash and guns from a house on Lougheed Highway and 221 Street. (Special to The News)
RCMP seize drugs, cash and guns from Maple Ridge house

Items were recovered after search warrant executed on Lougheed Highway home June 11

Fire near Highway 97 C close to Merritt. (Facebook)
Wildfire burning near Highway 97C

The fire is an estimated nine hectares in size

Athena and Venus, ready to ride. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)
Goggling double-dog motorcycle sidecar brings smiles to B.C. commuters

Athena and Venus are all teeth and smiles from their Harley-Davidson sidecar

Kimberly Bussiere and other laid-off employees of Casino Nanaimo have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
B.C. casino workers laid off during pandemic launch class-action lawsuit

Notice of civil claim filed in Supreme Court of B.C. in Nanaimo against Great Canadian Gaming

A Photo from Sept. 2020, when First Nations and wild salmon advocates took to the streets in Campbell River to protest against open-pen fish farms in B.C.’s waters. On Dec. 17, federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan announced her decision to phase out 19 fish farms from Discovery Islands. Cermaq’s application to extend leases and transfer smolts was denied. (Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror)
Feds deny B.C.’s Discovery Island fish farm application to restock

Transfer of 1.5 million juvenile salmon, licence extension denied as farms phased out

John Kromhoff with some of the many birthday cards he received from ‘pretty near every place in the world’ after the family of the Langley centenarian let it be known that he wasn’t expecting many cards for his 100th birthday. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Cards from all over the world flood in for B.C. man’s 100th birthday

An online invitation by his family produced a flood of cards to mark his 100th birthday

Most Read