The holiday season can be a difficult time for adult children of divorce. Family gatherings are often hard to attend with family members spread across the country. Traditional activities such as caroling or baking or even going to church can be stressful as memories of happier holidays haunt the present.

Jen Abbas, author of Generation EX: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of Our Pain (Jen Abbas), has twice felt the pain of divorce. Her birth parents divorced when she was six; her mother and stepfather divorced when she was 18. Abbas, 32, says other adult children of divorce can take steps toward making the holidays happy again.

Realistic expectations

"You must be realistic about your expectations," says Abbas, an associate marketing director at Zondervan Publishers. "There will probably be tension. There may be a situation where you can't be in two places at once, where it's not practical to see both parents."

Abbas recommends setting another day for holiday celebrations with divorced parents. She travels to Minnesota, where her mother, father and stepfather live, over Thanksgiving and celebrates Christmas then. "You can't control what your parents' responses are; you can only control what you do," she says. "Parents do the best that they can, but Christmas is not going to be the way it used to be."

Abbas has reclaimed Christmas for herself, a task she urges other adult children of divorce to do. She spends Christmas with friends because she knows the holidays will never be same with her family. One person she knows has a Christmas party featuring the traditions and food of a different country each year. "It's kind of embracing the idea that things always change," said Abbas. "Embrace the change and create your own traditions." ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.