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Holiday Time Can Spell Distress for Kids of Separated Parents….

April 11, 2022

This is a busy week in family law.

As luck would have it, we are in the run up to two significant religious holidays that this year happen to coincide and interestingly, with a third already upon us.

Friday is both Easter and Passover, two big family occasions. They occur in the midst of a third, Ramadan.

Between separated who don’t get along, these holidays can be a tremendous source of conflict.

The issue is who seees the kids when, for how long, and who will be responsible for the transfer of the kids between parents at what time on which day.

Of course this year with Omicron ripping through, we can add whether families should get together and who is fully vaxxed or not.

As parents may fall to dispute on these matters, their attention may shift to their anger and worry, not realizing the spill-over and impact on the kids.

The parental dispute may suck any joy a child may have felt towards either time with a patent, extended kin or the joy of the occasion.

As the parent’s are engaged in conflict, the kids are either disengaged or may fall towards the dispute dragged in as emissaries of their supposed preferences or as missionaries seeking to bring peace to matters beyond their control.

When kids feel some sort of responsibility for a role of any kind in the parental conflict, it often leads to them feeling either anxious, depressed, angry or checked out.

This looks like mental health issues, behavior issues or relationship issues as a result.

While many parents may seek counseling for a child on the basis of those outcomes, the counseling of the child may be to no avail if the source of their distress, the parental conflict, continues. Indeed, counseling for the child becomes yet another source of conflict leading to more of the child’s distress.

Children tend to be served by limiting the parental conflict, by the parents using whatever means, typically besides court, to settle matters as peacefully and respectfully as possible and without involving the child.

Sometimes difficult for sure, but still better for the child. Less conflict tends to provide for better outcomes for the child.

Their life need not be perfect, but the greater the peace, the better.

This may mean a parent letting go of their preferences to advance the need for peace in the interest the kids.

Peace, above most other things the parents may argue about, remains the most potent predictor of the child’s wellbeing and long term development. Peace.

With the holidays near upon us I wish all a peaceful week in the lead up as many homes prepare.

My wish is in thinking of those many kids where peace will be their best gift.


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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW for counseling and support – to build your successful practice

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

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