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Support group preps adult children of divorce for the holidays

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Christmas is meant to be a joyful time to celebrate the birth of Our Lord. While for many this entails pleasant get-togethers with extended family, such visits can often be complicated and difficult, especially for those whose parents are divorced.

To mitigate these challenges and provide timely support, the Office of Marriage, Family and Respect Life hosted an Advent Support Group for Adult Children of Divorce Nov. 30 and Dec. 7. The support groups consisted of two tip-sharing Zoom sessions and a holy hour intended to help participants not only survive Christmas but enjoy it.

The presentations included both practical tips and spiritual ones, with plenty of time for participants to share their own experiences and personal remedies.

Practical tips:

— Find a friend, preferably another child of divorce, you can text or call over the holiday if things get tense.

— Communicate boundaries in advance. For example, it may be necessary to ask mom and/or dad beforehand that they not speak disrespectfully of other family members during your visit.

— Keep in mind that it is okay to stay at your home for the holidays, rather than travel.

— Always remember that you are a gift. Don’t be guilt-messaged into a visit here or there. Try saying, “I won’t be visiting you this year, but it’s not because I don’t love you. I do love you. Thank you for the invitation. Maybe next time.”

— Plan a fun activity or trip with friends for January. This may lift your spirits through the end of December and give you something positive to share with family members.

One participant shared that he found it helpful to drive instead of fly when visiting out-of-town family. That way he had more flexibility to take a break and built-in excuses for errands, such as filling up the tank.

Spiritual tips:

— Fill up on the graces of the sacraments beforehand. If during the visit you need a quick break, try going for a walk and saying a rosary.

— Reframe challenges as opportunities to grow in holiness. For example, if a family member or situation is difficult, consider it as a chance to grow in patience, empathy, etc.

— Draw near to the Holy Family. Mary and Joseph knew a lot about anxiety, especially around the birth of Jesus. Place yourself spiritually in their arms.

— Create your own personal rosary: reflect on five moments in the life of Christ that are centered on marriage and the family.

— Listen carefully to the lyric from “O Holy Night” that says, “Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, till He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.” Let it speak to you specifically as a child of divorce.

One participant suggested finding a local religious community or Catholic charity during your trip: having dinner at a monastery or handing out coats to the homeless can help you focused on Christ.

Through this short support group series, participants were able to connect with each other and pray together in pursuit of a more joyful Christmas season.

Wolfe is a program specialist for marriage preparation and enrichment for the diocesan Office of Marriage, Family and Respect Life.

Find out more

For information about future support group offerings or other questions, contact the Office of Marriage, Family and Respect Life at 703/841-2550 or familylife@arlingtondiocese.org.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021