"I'm not coming if your father is going to be there." Sadly, this is a familiar reply to the Christmas invite in families of divorce. My parents divorced the year of our wedding, so these refrains are familiar territory. They challenge our ability to walk in the fullness of joy that is Christmas.
Often these broken family dynamics are magnified during the holidays. For the first time in 24 years, both of my divorced parents stayed under the same roof of our home for the entire week of Christmas. The verse I meditated on through the season was: "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment that comes with a promise: "Then you will live a long, full life. . ." The Lord rewards us as we honor our challenging parents, and he is blessed. This alone is a good enough reason to give it our best this year. After all, he chose them to bring us into this world.
How can you navigate the holidays with your broken family? Here are five things to help us keep it all together for the sake of our faith, our children and our own sanity:
1. Engage your family with depth and creativity. If you host the event, you're responsible for what happens next. You have the emotional edge in setting the tone for what follows, rather than buckling under the pressure of your divorced parents' meltdown. Plan your dinner and keep your guests busy. Load the table with Christmas crackers, sing a carol to start the meal, and ask everyone to go around and share a favorite Christmas memory. Give your children responsibilities so that the focus is on them serving those who might be hurting that day, rather than on themselves.1