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Around the holidays we are inundated with sentiments and advertisements that depict the happy and joyful “Hallmark Family,” gathered around the dinner table, or perhaps sipping hot chocolate by the Christmas tree. All together, smiling, happy and seeming like they prefer to be no place else other than where they are at that moment.

For many children of divorce, whether young or grown, their reality of the holidays couldn’t be farther from this almost fiction like scene. Young children are often carted off from one parent’s home to the others in the middle of a holiday, eating two dinners, and listening to their parent’s bickering over time spent with them. All while having virtually no say in where they are at what time. These children experience the stress of being in their holiday recitals at school and with possibly just one parent in attendance because the two parents can’t stand to be breathing the same air in the same room.

As adults you would think that these stresses lessen but in actuality they often don’t. Besides all of the usual issues of splitting holidays, feeling guilty for not being with one parent, adult children are often dealing with the issues of blended families.

As they grew, each parent went on to remarry, if not several, and all of this “blending” has created new family units compounding the issues that existed when they were younger. More people to see and more people to make happy equals more stress!

In a recent private session, I mediated issues between a grown adult daughter, her husband, her mother and stepdad. The daughter, troubled by an unmindful mother, felt torn at the holidays between all of her extended family responsibilities. Now the daughter’s children felt the discord between the parents and the grandparents. When does the trickle-down effect and the insanity end?

I may not have an answer to when it might end for some, but I do know when it begins. It begins at the time of divorce when couples do not come together to focus on the best interest of the children and are instead negotiating a parenting plan through their attorneys.

The children are often used as pawns to get back at one another for whatever reason. Tending to use their attorneys as a shield, bickering parents pursue domination and less make less attempts for collaboration. I’ve watched it happen personally through friends and family. Shouldn’t a parenting plan involve both parents coming to the table to discuss their children’s future?

Whether I am mediating a parenting plan for private clients going through divorce or mediating parenting plans for clients of attorneys, I always focus on creating a parenting plan that is extremely detailed and planned out. Parents will almost always come together to discuss issues of their children with some help and guidance. I have never experienced a parent who didn’t say that they want what’s best for their children when possible.

Getting the parents to talk about a common interest, their children, help them make better choices for their children and create an overall better environment for them as they grow into adulthood. When no topic is left undiscussed and there is little room for interpretation the plan will work best.

Hopefully children of divorce in the future and their families will enjoy the holidays if expectations and guidelines are arranged up front and collaboratively by the divorcing parents.

The “Hallmark Family” may still not exist in their world, but these children will experience less stress during the holidays.

This blog was published in Go Jane News.  Roseann Vanella is a Professional Family Mediator with Advanced Mediation Solutions locate in Mount Laurel New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania & Langhorne Pennsylvania.  Roseann specializes in all types of Mediation for Family Issues including Divorce, Elder Mediation, Domestic Partnerships, Estate Settlements and Blended Family Parenting Plans.  Roseann is also the host of “Family Affairs” on Blog Talk Radio every Thursday between 2:30-3pm EST.  Roseann may be reached at 856.669.7172

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