The holidays are upon us accompanied by all the expectations of creating picture-perfect, festive memories for you and your family. For divorced parents, however, this can be a nightmare of navigating what your kids want, what relatives want and what you want.
Forget all of that, says Dr. Elizabeth Cohen, a clinical psychologist who specializes in helping parents discover a positive approach to divorce.
“Give yourself so much grace and opportunity to learn. If this holiday season, something doesn't work, then you learn for next time what you want to do,” she says. “The holidays come every year.”
On this episode of Divorce, Healthy!, Elizabeth discusses the upcoming holiday dread for divorcees with host Ashley-Nicole Russell.
The important thing, Dr. Cohen says, is that parents focus on creating safe and connected time with their kids, no matter what that might look like. There’s no need to live up to unrealistic expectations. If you feel better about your life after divorce, you will be happier and calmer around the holidays as well, and your kids will feel happier and calmer.
“There are invisible gifts that you are giving your child by ending a relationship that's not working for you,” she says.
Name: Dr. Elizabeth Cohen
What she does: Dr. Cohen is a clinical psychologist based in New York City with a background in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and a focus on helping parents navigate divorce positively.
Words of wisdom: “I was put here on this earth to help women and men move through divorce and break the stigma of divorce as being a failure and see it as an amazing golden opportunity.”
Top takeaways from this Divorce, Healthy! episode
★ Think positive thoughts. You can shift your thinking on divorce — the way we have been trained to think about divorce doesn’t have to be the way you approach it going forward.
★ Ignore societal interpretations. The culture surrounding divorce has long portrayed it as something that inevitably makes your life worse. This is false! Divorce will likely lead to better things, including better relationships and friendships.
★ It’s about the kids. Remember it’s about your kids, not you. The number one thing you have to do is make them feel safe and connected and sometimes the way they feel safe and connected is not how you feel safe and connected.
★ The Hallmark holiday mirage. The pressure of the holidays can be particularly overwhelming for a divorced parent. It’s important to leave behind those picture-perfect expectations to relieve some pressure from you and your kids — especially this year.
[5:51] Give unto yourself what you give unto your child: As a parent, you want to empower your kids to make decisions that feel true to them. You should be doing the same for yourself.
[7:00] Collaborative law is good for you: Your nervous system will benefit from collaborative law, Dr. Cohen explains. Keeping litigation out of your divorce is key. It can be triggering and thus a burden on your mental health.
[14:01] Take the hit: At the holidays, your kids should not be carted around from house to house, party to party, pleasing everyone who wants to be with them. You might have to take a few hits from angry relatives, but your kids will feel safer and happier if the holidays don’t involve this musical chairs of get-togethers.
[16:46] Let your child choose what you do: Research shows that five minutes a day of child-directed play can be incredibly healing, says Dr. Cohen. This means letting them choose the activity. It creates a feeling of bonding and intimacy and can be a good holiday memory. Remember what your child likes and how it might differ if you have more than one.
[19:54] Preparation is key: Our nervous system doesn’t like to be caught off guard. The more you prepare, the better, and we aren’t talking about finding the perfect gift. It’s about your emotional preparation, intention and connection, helping you be fully present with your kids.
[21:10] The kids and you are all right: It’s important to let your kids know that you will be okay when they are not around at the holidays. They worry too. Share with them some of your plans so that they know you will be okay even when alone (and even when you’re not).
⭐ To inquire about speaking engagements, purchase your copy of Ashley-Nicole’s book “The Cure for Divorce Culture,” or to schedule your private orientation meeting, head to www.anrlaw.com.
⭐ You can also find us on social media @ANRLaw.
⭐ Find a better way forward, right here, on Divorce, Healthy! Subscribe in your preferred podcast app.