WellesleyWeston Magazine

WINTER 2017/2018

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

Issue link: https://wellesleywestonmagazine.epubxp.com/i/897427

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Page 148 of 195

tionship between the two parents," says Tanya Gurevich, a Needham therapist and mediator specializing in divorce. "Some are amicable, or can manage to put their differences aside for that time, and it works. But the risk of doing that is confusing the children into thinking their par- ents are getting back together. If parents are consistent in saying that they won't be reuniting but are still celebrating together, I've seen everyone under one roof that first holiday be very good for kids." And then, somehow, there are parents who basically want to kill one another and still manage for the holidays. Johnson recalls just how difficult it was to put her resentment toward her ex aside on that first Christmas and welcome him back into the house. "We were very acrimonious," she admits. "It was like a sucker punch to have to put that anger to the side. But we agreed that the kids' feelings had to be the priority, so we just needed to power through for their sake." Even amicable splits can pose huge challenges when you are trying to create a sense of normalcy. "It's definitely raw, those first couple of holidays," says Haven Tyler, a Newton mom of three. "My ex and I were friendly, so we figured he should come over and spend Christmas day with us. But it was so soon after [the divorce] that I found myself feeling frantic. And looking back, I know I overcompensated — basically turning myself into a crazy Martha Stewart mom who tried too hard to make everything perfect for everyone. I know we overcompensated with gifts, too — buy- ing the kids too much to distract them from the situation." Fortunately that urge, she says, faded quickly. After that first year they moved on to celebrating separately, and now the kids get one big gift each from each parent. "It's a more modest holiday. We definitely still have fun, but it's much more authentic." Speaking of gifts, Ballard has some advice, given the conflicts he's seen arise with clients: "With something like holiday wish lists, be as communicative as possible in advance with your ex about who will get what, and do your best to be reasonable in dividing up who will buy what. If not, it can turn into a competitive situation, with parents trying to outdo one another with extravagant presents. That only heightens the tension, and kids sense it." Which brings up yet another point: The all-important quest to find a way to put our kids' needs first isn't only about avoiding fights with our exes in front of them; there are other, more subtle pitfalls. "Often without even knowing it, parents will put their kids in the middle, especially during the holidays, by telling them how sad they'll be not to be with them if it's the other parent's time to have them," says Gurevich. "This puts unfair pressure on a child, and makes them feel guilty for having a good time with the other parent during the holiday." It also falls into what experts refer to as "parentification" — a form of role reversal, in which a child is inappropriately 147 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | w i n t e r 2 0 1 7 / 2 0 1 8 family matters "trying to create a sense of normalcy"

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