Sunday, December 21, 2014

Divorce: Dealing with Visitation

English: An artificial Christmas tree.
School will be out shortly for Christmas break, and that means your ex gets custody. It certainly doesn't seem fair. You fight over homework, correct behavior, eating green beans, and he (she) gets to be Santa Claus.

Yes, he's the father, and we are grateful he loves his children. Still the loss of time with them over significant holidays burns like reflux from too much eggnog. Add, on top of that, the guilt from being resentful of not having our children all the time, and we have a recipe for depression.

However, we can take simple steps to overcome our pain. How? So glad you asked.

Drinking chocolate (not hot cocoa) at a cafe i...

  1. Move Christmas. Obviously, the world will not change it from December 25. Should they agree to that, the ex will have the kiddos during that season. However, you can create a new holiday. Choose one that has significance for you. The winter solstice is the darkest day of the year. Make that the time that you celebrate Christmas. Wrap presents, put them under the tree, do all the December 25 stuff on December 21 (or 20). Hate using solstice? Try the Feast of the Epiphany in January. We called it Little Christmas, and it is the Russian celebration. Christmas is not about the day. It's the family and the love and the remembrance of Christ's birth.
  2. Celebrate Christmas. Go to church, volunteer in a shelter or soup kitchen or a hospital. Maybe you can invite friends over who have no one to share this season with--empty-nesters whose kids live across the country or world. 
  3. Invite yourself. Do you have a good friend who celebrates with her family? If it isn't chaotic--ask if there's room for one more at the inn. I tend to be introverted and fear asking to be involved, but in my years as a teacher, I discovered from my students, by simple asking, 'Me, too?', an invitation is gladly extended.
  4. Movie night. Make the day special. Stay in PJs, drink more hot cocoa than you do all year, and stream every corny Christmas music Netflix offers. Make the day special to you.
  5. Adopt a child. This needs to be planned in advance. Does a special friend have a child or children you love? Become their grandma/pa, aunt/uncle, and dote on them all year. Christmas morning, after the family chaos has died down at their house and before they must leave for the real grandparents, stop by with gifts and coffee and homemade maple scones.
  6. Count your blessings. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. Read the Scriptures of his arrival--or Hebrews 10: 1-7 for a new perspective. Keep a journal for the year and record the way your children have blessed you. Re-read during this hiatus.
  7. Remember. This is only an interlude. Pretty soon the kids will return and you'll be wishing you could pawn them off on someone and get a break (knowing all along, you'd rather die--literally).
In divorce any holiday: Hanukkah, Easter, summer vacation can be hard. Be positive. Find alternatives, and you will survive.

What have you done that works for you?

Thursday, December 11, 2014


English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I saw her squatting and looking eye to eye at the packaged item standing under the Christmas tree. It was four in the morning, and I had no idea how long she had been there.
            I was grateful for the toys and clothes Mother had bought for my children. She had set a few unwrapped items under the tree before retiring to bed, doing her bit to keep the fantasy of Santa alive for another year—a magnanimous gesture for one who so despised the myth.
             If it had not been for her, my children would have wondered if Santa cared about them. Divorced, unemployed, and with a scant amount of support money, what little allowance I received from the government barely paid for rent and food. Outside of crayons and coloring books, Christmas, as I hoped it would be, was out of the question.
            Mother understood my heartache. She herself had known many disappointing Christmases, and hoped to provide better for her own children; but, it was not until Christmas, 1948, that she first began to actually despise Santa. “Santa Claus is a cruel hoax for poor children.”
The years following World War II were difficult for returning vets. Jobs were scare and finding shelter for their families a daunting task. The only housing my parents could afford was in the south side of the city. They rented a cold-water flat, the euphemism given to apartments with no running hot water. Rats often found their way into the cleanest of these dwellings. The adaptive rodents would eat anything, even gnawing their way through aluminum garbage cans. They thrived in cold-water flats. Fearful that the rats would bite her children, Mother spent many sleepless nights vigilantly listening for any sounds that might indicate danger. 
A child of the depression and a wife of a war soldier, Mother was grateful for her surroundings, grateful that her family was all together under one roof even if money were scarce. My father’s factory paycheck paid the rent and bought food—leaving little for luxuries of any kind, especially events like Christmas. I was still a baby, unaware that there was a special day to be excited about. My brother, on the other hand, had been looking forward to Christmas and to Santa’s showering of presents for all good boys and girls.
At first, my brother was thrilled when he opened the holster gun set and cowboy hat under the tree. 

“Oh, boy! I’m a real cowboy, now!” He flitted about the house shooting bad men that lurked behind 

the couch and chair. Then he took his treasure outside. It was not long before he rushed back into the 

house, his countenance forever changed. “Have I been good, Mom?” my brother asked.
“Of course, you have,” Mother reassured him.
“Then why did Santa Claus only bring me two presents? Santa brought Danny ten presents and a new bike?”
My mother didn’t know how to answer his child spirit. How could she explain poverty to a four-year-old, an innocent who didn’t know he was poor? Mother took the fall for Santa.
“Well, honey,” she ventured to explain. “Moms and dads have to pay Santa for the presents. We didn’t have very much money to give him.” She watched helplessly as her child faced the brutal realities of social inequities for the first time in his life, knowing the experience would be repeated many times over.
Yes, I knew Mother understood the heartache I felt that Christmas.
My three-year old turned to look at me, eyes filled with tears. “For me?” she asked, not quite believing it might be true.
“Yes, honey. Santa brought it for you.”
I helped her remove the cellophane wrapping. She hugged the treasured gift so tightly, her little fingers turned white.
 “It’s just what I wanted! He remembered!”
 “Yes, he remembered.”
In my heart, I was grateful to a mother whose memory reached from her pain and gave comfort.

Linda Wood Rondeau is an award-winning author of many books. My favorites are It Really Is A Wonderful Life and The Other Side of Darkness. 
You can find her works on online venues wherever books are sold, and you won't regret reading any of them.
You can also contact Linda at

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Beauty of Single Parenting: By Angela Ruth Strong

My guest today is Angela Ruth Strong. She studied journalism at the Univeristy of Oregon. Strong released her debut romance novel the year after her divorce, which was difficult to say the least. She is in the middle of her Fun4Hire series for ages 8-12, a series that deals with divorce in Book 2--THE SNOWBALL FIGHT PROFESSIONAL. You can find out more about her, her incredible remarriage, and her books at

Before the divorce, my oldest daughter would walk into a room, look around, find a person she wanted to become friends with, and go befriend them. She was only eight at the time.
Shortly after the divorce, I took her to a new church, and she was afraid to go to Sunday school. She begged me not to leave her. In hopes that she would overcome her fear and realize how strong she really was, I told her I would be back for her after the service. She sat inside the door and cried.
I cried, too. And I don’t just mean a few tears. I mean I couldn’t go into to the service. I went and sat fully clothed on the toilet in the bathroom and sobbed my eyes out.
I hurt for her. Because she hadn’t only lost the security of family, she’d lost herself.
I told my counselor about the incident that week. I said, “I would have done anything to keep from her from the pain.”
He said, “Anything?”
I said, “Yes. Anything.”
He said, “That’s not healthy, Angela.”
And while I believe she deserved to have an unbroken home, I know now that I can’t shield her from life. I can’t fix all her problems. I can’t save her. That’s not my job. That’s God’s job.
My job is to be there for her. To love. To understand. To lead her to the One who has all the answers.
Five years after the divorce, she’s come a long way. She has some great friendships. She’s poured herself into dance. She’s involved in youth group. She was chosen first for the team of 8th graders to help 6th graders integrate into middle school. She loves to babysit. She makes things happen. I couldn’t be prouder.
But there are still days where I cry for her. Days where a boy at school tells every girl in the room she’s beautiful except for my daughter. Days where a couple of friends exclude her from an activity. Days where all her fears come out in a vicious attack on me. Days where she questions her worth all over again.
I still wish I could take that pain away. I would gladly sacrifice all my growth and the joy I’ve found through redemption so she could be a confident little girl again.
But then I have to remind myself that such feelings go back to my codependency issues. My enabling. My belief that doing the work for someone else is the same thing as loving them.
So I simply love.
I listen. I hug. I cry with her. I speak truth. And I use a little trick my counselor taught me to get her out of her funk. Are you ready?
  1. Validate. Always validate. Example: “I know it’s hard.”
  2. Encourage.  This is what they need to hear. What they want to believe but are afraid to. Example: “It will get better.”
  3. Redirect. Example: “Shall we go shopping for your new toe shoes this weekend?” OR “What kind of cookies should we bake for Christmas?”
Children deserve so much more than what we can give them as single parents, and until we accept that, we can’t be the parents they need.  No matter what your child/children are going through, forgive yourself for not being perfect and get the help you need to be present.

Neither she or I will ever be the same person we were before the divorce. But someday, when my daughter is teaching a Sunday school class of her own, she will know exactly how to help out any little girls crying by the door. And the world will be a more beautiful place because of it.

Have children dealing with divorce? Check out Angela's book.