Dear Jacqueline,

Dear Jacqueline,

As the holiday is fast approaching I have a question concerning my 12 year old son.  Long and short of it is he has been estranged from his father now for 1 1/2 years and the holidays are a hard time for him.  He doesn’t hear from him for months (mind you he lives 2 miles away) except on holidays he gets a text message saying ” Happy Holiday Love and miss you”.  My son will always respond the same but knows he then will not hear from him until the next holiday, which makes him sad and angry.  I have thought about taking his phone on the holiday, blocking his dad’s number, etc.  Any advice would be appreciated. 

Thanks,

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

            It sounds like this is not only hard on your son, but you as well. I imagine that as a mother you are left feeling pretty helpless in this situation, and wanting to protect your son from feeling hurt. I am also imagining that for your son the text message feels like a beacon of hope, which leaves him feeling even more disappointed when he realizes his dad is returning to old patterns.

            At his age (at any age in childhood actually), he is likely placing blame on himself for his relationship with his father. The best thing you can do is validate his feelings (“I know it hurts when he lets you down.” “I’m sorry he is not being the father you need.”) and assure him that while it might not feel like it, that it is not his fault, and the outcome of the relationship with his dad is not a reflection of him not being a good enough son. This is a big weight that he is likely carrying, and knowing that you understand him and are there for him will be a great support. If he is not already, I would also suggest counseling so he has an extra outlet for these emotions. And the fact that you are willing to reach out sets a good example for him that it is ok.

            Good luck with the holidays, and I hope everything goes well.

~Jacqueline

Dear Jacqueline

Dear Jacqueline,

 

            I seem to have a hard time around the holidays, especially watching Christmas movies. As much as I want to get into the spirit, it upsets me that all I see are perfect families. What can I do?

 

~ Anonymous

 

Dear Anonymous,

 

            I just want to start by saying that what you’re feeling is completely normal. The holidays can be hard for a lot of people, especially when it comes to family. These days there are very few cohesive nuclear families, and with divorce, blending, loss, and hurt feelings, it is not always feasible to celebrate the holidays as one happy unit.

            I don’t think there is any one answer as to how to cope, but there is some solid buffering you can do to make sure you’re holidays are enjoyable. First, focus on the positive in your life. Who is the support system that brings you love and happiness? That may not even include family, but it should not be discounted. Sometimes the best family members are great friends. If possible, try to surround yourself with those people and celebrate together.

             You’ve already acknowledged that family might not be perfect, and that is ok. One of the most difficult things we can do in life is accept people for who they are, and sometimes that means they might not need to hold a high place in your life. Depending on the severity, practice limiting your exposure to those individuals to whatever level feels safe for you. If avoidance isn’t a possibility, work on a game plan in your mind. Try to spend your time with those individuals as more of an observer, watching something play out. This is something to keep in mind, regardless of the holidays.

            Lastly, if you don’t want to miss out on the fun of watching holiday movies, try to include a few that show different representations of what family means. The Santa Clause shows a family that is struggling with divorce and remarriage (and is one of my personal favorites), and  The Grinch is a classic that focuses more on community as a whole rather than the nuclear family.

            I hope you find this helpful, and if you ever find that these feelings are becoming too overwhelming, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. And enjoy your holidays!

 

~ Jacqueline