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Holidays: Not Always Happy for Divorced Co-Parents

holiday stress

Thoughts on dealing with the holidays when you're not with your children.

For divorced co-parents, holidays can be a set-up for distress. One day, two families- the math doesn’t work. You either split the day or you divvy up the years. In any case, divorced co-parents often wind up with a hole in their heart for part or all of the holiday.

It’s easy to say, “it’s only a day like any other” but it isn’t a day like any other. It is a special day; a day that has an undeniable energy around it. A day that calls out: “Come! Be surrounded by loved ones, be happy and connected!”

Connection with others is essential. It’s not frosting on the cake, it is the cake. For parents, connection with children is the highest and most important form of connection. The need for this connection is deeply wired into our DNA.

There’s a special kind of grief that you feel when you’re not with your kids on a special day. It’s a unique kind of emptiness. There’s a way that being together with our children makes us feel whole and like the world is right. Without them, it’s like we’re adrift, lost, disconnected.

So how do we weather this difficulty? I wish I could give you an answer that would make all the hurt go away. Unfortunately, the most effective way out of the sadness is through it. Let yourself feel it. Let yourself grieve. Things didn’t turn out the way you’d hope they would. When we let ourselves grieve, our hearts open, and we actually have more capacity for love and connection.

You may not be with your children, but there are many people in need of your love and care. Reach out to friends or relatives. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Take a walk and wish a stranger a warm happy holiday.  Let your heart connect with all the many co-parents out in the world that are feeling sad at this moment too or others who are separated from their children on this day: military personnel, people who live far from their families, so many people in painful and disconnected circumstances.

All the while, you can send love to your children, because love travels and somewhere in their beings they feel it. Send them the wish that even though they aren’t with you, they are still surrounded by love and the joy of the season.

And, yes, holidays are a special day. But guess what? So is every single day!  Every single day is an opportunity for love, connection and belonging. No day is ordinary! Not one!

There are so many opportunities for connection but we often squander them because we are focused on the stresses and demands of daily life. Remember to be present with your children every day. Remember to appreciate and be grateful for the simple things: sharing a meal, driving them to school, giving them a hug, seeing them smile. When it comes down to it, those wonderful, special moments are available to us everyday and are no less powerful or meaningful than what we experience on a holiday.

Alisa Jaffe Holleron is a therapist, teacher and author that provides co-parents with real help with a realistic approach. Learn how to focus on and get what you really want. Visit her at or contact her at to feel better now.

This article was originally published at Alisa Jaffe Holleron. Reprinted with permission from the author.


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