This Christmas, be kind, be gentle, be generous of spirit

The holidays can be a busy and conflict-laden time of year.

As a social worker who sees many separated parents in dispute about the care of their children, Christmas is a busy and conflict-laden time of year.

Referrals are always up and service is most frequently for help determining the residential schedule over Christmas. The money that was to go for gift giving is shared between the lawyers and myself or my colleagues as we see parents in conflict figure out how and when the children’s time with them will be divvied up.

Not only are we busy, but so too is the court system as parents file what they believe to be emergency motions seeking a judge to order a solution.

For most, a judge’s decree or an agreement reached through mediation will be sufficient to help parents manage. For others, conflict will still erupt on the holiday, very often on Christmas Day itself.

I will return to my office after a few days away to listen to messages and read emails with one parent blasting about the other parent, police involvement, the need for contempt orders and abject hatred about the untrustworthy other.

Often I will receive emails from both parents saying essentially the same thing, albeit with some nuances as to the details so that all blame is ascribed to the other.

Rarely though, do I hear about the impact of these events on the children. That actually comes much later.

Apart from the frequent behavioural, mental and academic difficulties that surface for these children along the way, come adulthood I am visited by these then-grown-up children with their new partner in tow.

They come because this now-adult child needs help to explain to the new partner why they don’t want to celebrate Christmas or why they don’t want to visit any parents.

Given their traumatic experiences of Christmas in childhood, who could blame them? Anxiety about Christmas still grips them. From their perspective, Christmas is dangerous and something to be avoided.

This, by the way, is not only an outcome for children of high-conflict separated parents, but it is also seen in intact families where domestic violence or alcoholism is a factor, or in families where there is significant parental conflict and/or abuse or neglect of the children.

Christmas isn’t the “Hallmark” memory for many and for them, the Christmas season is a frightening – and alongside the positive experiences of others – even a confusing time of year.

This year, be mindful that your partner, your friend, your colleague or your neighbour may not be relying on the same memories as you this season.

If someone feels or looks at odds, please appreciate that their recollections at this time of year may be traumatic. Don’t push and don’t argue. Support and appreciate that we all have different childhood experiences that colour our views of the season and our reactions to it. Perhaps offer them a good experience.

Be kind. Be gentle. Be understanding. Be accepting. Be generous of spirit. Help build new memories from hence forward.

Gary Direnfeld


Just Posted

VIDEO: Surrey hair salon joins sustainability initiative

Hair can be used to create boom to clean up oil spills: Green Circle Salons

White Rock breaks temperature record

B.C. city was the hottest in all of Canada

South Surrey church members ‘praying for accused mother… for the whole process’

Lisa Batstone’s second-degree murder trial continues this week in B.C. Supreme Court

City will ask Fraser Health to remove pay parking at SMH, Surrey councillor says

Surrey’s new council has already made parking free on neighbouring city streets

VIDEO: Health and Technology District breaks ground on new building

City Centre 3 is the third of eight planned buildings: Lark Group

Trudeau offers to help Pacific islands face climate change impact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the leaders from the Pacific island nations on Saturday during the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea

Everett pulls ahead in Western Conference standings over Vancouver Giants

Western Hockey League’s G-Men, who lost 6-5 to Everett Saturday, now prepares to take on Victoria.

Price makes 36 saves as Habs edge Canucks 3-2

Late goal lifts Montreal past Vancouver

BC Minister of Agriculture loses stepson to accidental overdose

Lana Popham announces death of her 23-year-old stepson, Dan Sealey

Canadian military’s template for perfect recruits outdated: Vance

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff says that the military has to change because the very nature of warfare is changing, particularly when it comes to cyber-warfare

‘Toxic’ chosen as the Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries

Other top contenders for 2018 include ‘gaslighting’ and ‘techlash’

RCMP bust illegal B.C. cannabis lab

Marijuana may be legal but altering it using chemicals violates the Cannabis Act

1 woman dead, man in hospital after ‘suspicious’ crash: police

Homicide investigators and Burnaby RCMP are investigating the fatal collision

Canada defeats Germany 29-10 in repechage, moves step closer to Rugby World Cup

Hong Kong needs a bonus-point win over Canada — scoring four or more tries — while denying the Canadians a bonus point

Most Read