Not surprisingly, holiday parenting exchanges can be more frequent and stressful for estranged families than at any other time. There are numerous opportunities to become rude or harsh with the other parent. As Christians, however, we are mandated by Christ to love our neighbors, and this includes ex-spouses!
In emotional situations, good people can sometimes do things that really hurt their children because they themselves were hurt. In my law practice, I have seen many scenarios where hurting parents have chosen to take the lower road, unwittingly doing the cruelest damage to their children. Ages, genders, and holidays may be fictitious, but the sadness is real:
- In one situation, the mother refused to allow her preschooler to take his favorite Christmas present to the father’s home on Christmas night. The four-year-old was heartbroken.
- In another situation, the father refused to allow the mother to have her children on Mother’s Day, in order to “punish” the mother.
- In yet another situation, the husband recorded proof of his wife’s extra-marital affair and chose to play the tape in front of the children at a holiday dinner.
It is imperative that estranged parents seek the peace of Christ when dealing with past hurt, anger, or bitterness, instead of merely reacting to their pain. Before doing anything, they should remember to put themselves in their children’s shoes and evaluate whether their behavior will be Christ-like and wholesome from their children’s perspective.
Relationships can go very wrong, and understandably, feelings are hurt beyond what seems fair or bearable; but the Word says that when we have done all we can do to stand, we stand (see Ephesians 6:13-14). This holiday season, my prayer for all mothers and fathers of broken or divorced families is that they continue to draw close to the Lord through prayer, focus on being who God has called them to be, and always put the interests of their children first.
If you are having trouble dealing with a difficult ex-spouse, or if you find that you yourself are overcome with the pain and anger involved with parenting in a post-divorce situation, remember that there are many post-divorce parenting classes available that address these issues in more detail. Talk to your attorney for more information.
The Ask Attorney April column is intended to be general information only. It is not intended to be legal advice and may not address your specific legal matters. If you have a legal question, it is imperative that you seek the advice of an attorney who will provide you with legal counsel tailored to your specific need or situation. Please contact your local bar association if you need an attorney referral.