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Dignity, Holidays, and Parenting

This time of year is infused with tradition, memories (both positive and negative), celebration, and really good food. It would seem that December offers something for everyone regardless of culture or faith, and family is often at the center of these festivities.

If you have children and are in the process of divorcing or have lived for years in the aftermath of your family being "reconfigured," you know how tough December can be. Things can never be the same, but you do your best to create new traditions and happy memories for the most important people: your children.

In the best-case scenario, you and your former or soon-to-be former spouse behave with civility and dignity in sharing time with the children at the holidays. After all, according to psychologist Donna Hicks, Ph.D., writer of the book Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict, "If children see their parents treating each other with dignity, then they will develop an imprint in their brain about how all others should be treated (Hicks 81)." We all want this to happen.

However, what happens if you and your spouse are still doing "the dance?" Maybe you still argue and fuss like when you were married. Perhaps the war never ended even though the court documents say it did, and maybe the children are the unintended collateral damage of this incivility.

When the kids see you being ugly to each other (especially when it has to do with them) you are actually perpetrating an indignity upon them. You reduce them to the subject of another power struggle, another disagreement, another war between you and your former spouse. How must it feel to see two people you love battle over you? I think it must be immeasurably painful; and in the wise words of Dr. Hicks, "It is the ultimate indignity to cause [children] harm, especially if we have it within our power to prevent it (Hicks 73)."

It may just be the garden-variety fight that you and your former partner have had hundreds of times. However, to your little ones, these kinds of indignities "have the potential to distort their sense of safety and worthiness for the rest of their lives (Hicks 73)."

So, as we head into what can be tricky timesharing days, please choose your battles wisely. Seeing parents treating each other with dignity and respect, and reducing conflict may be the most precious gift you can give your child this season.

For assistance with your parenting issues you can set a time to speak with one of the attorneys at Schwam-Wilcox & Associates by calling 407-245-7700, e-mailing or by visiting our website at Happy Holidays from our family to yours. Home Office: Orlando


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