December #AskGretchen: Believing in Santa, Divorced Kids Tour, Creating New Traditions and, Family Induced Anxiety

#AskGretchen - Let's Get RealDear Gretchen: My Eight- year- old daughter came home from school saying her friends told that Santa isn’t real. How do I explain this since she still believes? – Santa’s Helper in New Jersey

Dear Santa’s Helper: Last year my nine-year—old son begged me to tell him if Santa was real. He had mentioned something about a gift he’d received at Christmas, and said how much fun I had picking it out. He looked at me and said, “Santa got it for me.” To my dismay, I’d been caught. I backpedaled, but he insisted that I tell him the truth about Santa. I wanted to keep Santa alive as long as possible but knew that he deserved the truth and was ready for it since he so adamantly wanted to know. I explained that Santa lives in all of us and that he is the spirit of giving. I let him know that we are all Santa’s and that Santa is a symbol of unity and generosity. My son had a lot of questions, ranging from “Why did you lie to me?” to “So he doesn’t come down the chimney or eat the cookies?” As I continued to explain that yes I had lied, but only so that he could enjoy the excitement and anticipation of Santa, I did watch a piece of his childhood disappear. I talked about our religious beliefs and where they fit into the holiday. By the end, he was okay but disappointed. I asked him if he wished his father and I had never pretended there was a Santa, to begin with. He said he was glad that we had but was sad that it wasn’t true. Your 8-year-old will still believe in Santa if you tell her that he is real. The choice is up to you on how long you want to prolong the tale. Telling your kids the truth about Santa is like slowly or quickly ripping a Band-Aid off. There is no right way to do it, and either way it hurts. – Gretchen

Dear Gretchen: How do you recommend sharing time with my ex-husband and his family for Christmas Day? Everyone wants to spend Christmas morning with them. – Juggling in Detroit, MI

Dear Juggling: Coming from a divorced family myself, I know how hard this can be not only for the parent but for the kids as well. Doing the “divorced kids tour” can be exhausting. There is a way however for everyone to enjoy themselves. Creating a loving and fun atmosphere, no matter what time of day the festivities take place is key to enjoying the holidays in a spilt family. Some years, my brother and I would wake up at our dad’s house at 5:30 AM (yup) and open presents with my dad, step-mom, my sisters and brothers, and then be to my mom’s house by 9 AM to do Christmas morning there. As things changed, we woke up at my mom’s on Christmas morning and got together with my dad in the afternoon. My point is, that whether it’s Christmas Eve, the week before Christmas, Christmas morning, or Christmas day, you can make the celebration special and fun by being present and worrying less about what it “should” look like and accepting what it does look like. You can always switch off with your ex and rotate each year as well. The good news is, there are a lot of solutions, and all of them start with your attitude and ability to let go of the picture of what Christmas needs to look like for all of you to enjoy it. – Gretchen

Dear Gretchen: How do I get around traveling to the in-laws for Christmas? My kids are three and five years old so that means lots of gifts. I want to create special memories in our home. – Homebody in Nebraska

Dear Homebody: My husband and I used to travel to visit my parents for Christmas every year until my oldest son was two. We had the same desire that you’re expressing about wanting to wake up at home with our kids to create memories of our own. I was really experiencing anxiety about letting go of a childhood tradition and had quite a bit of angst about letting my extended family down. After talking to my grandma and my mom and dad, I knew it was okay to change traditions. Surprisingly, my parents started traveling to our house for Christmas! It was something that I never thought would happen but was brave enough to ask for. Invite your in-laws to your house this year. Let them know that you are ready to start traditions in your home. More than likely, they will understand. While it will be a different experience for everyone, different doesn’t mean bad and can actually end up, very good. – Gretchen

Dear Gretchen: I love my family, but they cause me extreme anxiety. I feel a lot of pressure about interacting with them. My family celebrates Hanukkah and the pressure is on full hilt by the 8th day. Help! – Anxious in San Diego, CA

Dear Anxious: Let yourself off the hook. It’s okay to limit the time you spend with your family if they cause you that much anxiety. Put your people pleasing aside and ask yourself what would make you happy and do that. If you feel like you can’t, that’s an issue you need to explore. Much of the pressure we feel we put on ourselves because we have an old idea in our head of what things should look like. – Gretchen

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