Even the most well-meaning divorced parents can find themselves looking for love during the holidays, love from their children, that is….

The holiday season implies, for all of us, warm, inviting gatherings of family from regions far and wide, everyone reuniting around lavish feasts and storytelling. For children from divorced families, this time of year can be especially confusing and painful. Who’s house to go to? When to be there? Who else will be there? What if I can’t get to see both of my parents equally?

The divorce phenomena of being stuck in the middle pervades questions such as these, giving us evidence of the ways in which children of divorce continue to struggle with and feel compelled to take care of their parents’ needs.

And so I watch and listen as my own daughter, home for a brief period before flying off to spend spring semester abroad, tries in vain to please each of her parents by parsing out the amount of time she decides to spend in each house…..this while undergoing some medical treatment that she wants each parent to participate in and help with. Inevitably, it doesn’t work the way she thinks it will. Inevitably, there are slightly wounded feelings, misunderstandings. Of course, everyone agrees that she should do what works for HER. Yet she isn’t able to truly base her decisions on that idea, knowing in her heart that each of her parents has their own ideas of what will please and feel best to them.

And so it is brought home to me, to my attention, that children of divorce need to be freed from the constraints of their parents’ needs during holiday times. Permission needs to be given, at the deepest core levels, at a soul level, that conveys to children, “I am always here for you, and you are free to come and go as works best for you….(even if I wouldn’t do it that way, even if I’d prefer something different)”. I am here as a parent for hugs and love, for chicken soup and doctor appointments, for a place to crash at the end of a stressful semester, for unwinding time in your own bed, for cuddle time as you need it. Your homecoming brightens my days for sure, and I am also doing well in my own life when you are not present. You do not need to be burdened, encumbered by worry about taking care of me.