The Holidays are upon us, give yourself a gift and check out a meeting!
Monday, December 11th at 7:30PM.
A MERRY GAY CHRISTMAS….HANDLING THE HOLIDAYS AS A GAY DAD
– What are you doing over the holidays and your kids?
– Handling holiday stress, family situations, and being better prepared.
– LGBT friendly Churches/Synagogues/etc. and navigating the “traditional values” situations with families.
Center on Halsted, second floor.
The Center is at the corner of Halsted and Waveland, in the Lakeview neighborhood. 3658 N Halsted St. There is an entrance to the Center from the Whole Foods on the first floor, if you prefer a less visible entrance to the Center.
After the meeting, if the spirits move us closer to quaffing spirits, we’ll choose a nearby place.
Everything we do focuses on supporting Gay Fathers, from supportive listening, to peer-led focus on the issues of coming out, raising children, growing up gay in a straight world, and building and maintaining healthy, authentic relationships.
Meeting Notes and Resource Links:
A MERRY GAY CHRISTMAS….HANDLING THE HOLIDAYS AS A GAY DAD
Chanukah, Christmas, Eid al-Adha, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, Muharram, the Lunar New Year and other seasonal celebrations will soon set the stage for countless news and feature stories in mainstream and ethnic print and electronic media.
Seasonal celebrations such as Eid al-Adha (Dec. 8), Hanukkah (Dec. 22-29), Christmas (Dec. 25), Kwanzaa (Dec. 26-Jan. 1), Muharram (Dec. 29-Jan. 26), New Year’s (Jan. 31), the Lunar New Year (Jan. 26) are on the horizon and will soon set the stage for countless news and feature stories in mainstream and ethnic print and electronic media.
Because the holidays are often one of the few occasions that families are able to come together, some LGBT people come out to families over the holidays, particularly when introducing a partner or significant other to family for the first time. While coming out over a holiday has become a humorous Hollywood plot device, a personal story about coming out provides an opportunity for journalists to present a personal angle to discussion of LGBT issues.
At a time of year where people gather together with loved ones, some LGBT people who are isolated from their families because of their sexual orientation or gender identity will instead celebrate the season with their “chosen family.” This could include close friends, extended family and other community members. By writing about these gatherings, journalists help increase awareness of the very serious issue of LGBT people estranged from their immediate family, while also allowing inclusive coverage of all families during the holidays.
Besides the joys, stresses and struggles that LGBT and straight Americans share during this season – “popping the question” on a holiday, introducing a new boyfriend or girlfriend at a company party, dealing with holiday travel – LGBT people also have unique stories to tell during this time of year
Handling holiday stress, family situations, and being better prepared.
Children are barometers for parents, and if they see a parent unhappy it will make them feel sad. Don’t make your kids suffer your loneliness in your first Christmas without them. Make a plan now, and Christmas Eve will be a bit less painful.
- Think out of the box. You don’t need to have the same traditions you had when you were married. If you are alone it is an opportunity to start over and do what really matters to you.
- Make a plan to call your children at a particular time. Negotiate with your ex regarding what time would be good so as not to interfere with their holiday plans (the more you support your ex in being a good parent, the better chance your children have of growing up to be confident, well-adjusted people).
- Invite family or friends over for Christmas Eve. The more you focus on serving others the deeper meaning Christmas will have for you.
- If your kids are going to be gone for two or three days and you cannot bear being in the house alone, plan a short trip. Instead of buying gifts no one needs, splurge on a short trip you always wanted to take. People are very friendly this time of year, and most likely you will not have to struggle to make friends.
- Allow yourself to do whatever you could not do when the kids were with you. Take a hot bath, or stay up and read until 3 a.m.
- Watch a movie that makes you feel uplifted.
- Do something creative. Maybe a room in the house needs to be painted. You are alone, and no one said that you cannot decorate or fix up the house on Christmas Eve. Make it your own holiday, and do what takes your mind off your loneliness.
- Remember that divorce shatters both partners’ self esteem. This is not a good time to be looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right. Much wiser to call an old friend and ask them if they can listen for a while.
- Write your story. The more people can write about their thoughts and feelings the quicker they can work through them and gain understanding. Who knows, you may be creating a best seller.
- Light a candle, turn on soft music and pray. You are a spiritual being having a human experience and this part of being a human is painful.
Most people are afraid of being alone. For many the fear keeps them trapped in broken relationships and broken families. If your marriage didn’t work out, and you do find yourself alone at Christmas, celebrate the fact that you aren’t trapped in a marriage that was broken. Look to tomorrow, believe in the lessons you learned today. You’re going to be okay.
Tips for First Christmas after a divorce
- It is normal to feel things more intensely at the holidays. The infinite supply of cheese balls, chocolate, Carols and Cards only serve to ratchet up the nostalgia meter as a lifetime of both good and bad memories wash over you.
- While emotions are often unpredictable and we can’t help what we feel, here are some thoughts to consider that can make the holidays a little less painful and hopefully even a bit enjoyable!
- Accept that no matter what you do, you cannot make up for the loss. Trying to keep things EXACTLY THE SAME only emphasizes that nothing is the same.
- Let go of traditions that no longer work for you. This is an opportunity to re-invent your holidays. Keep the traditions that you enjoy and get rid of the ones that you don’t. No one expects you to be on your best behavior during this time, so you can probably pull it off without anyone getting offended.
- Stick to your regular routine as closely as possible. Sleep, exercise, eat well and don’t skip those therapy appointments.
- Don’t use money, alcohol, food, or sex to deal with pain and sadness. These indulgences will just leave you poor, hung over, fat, and guilty on December 26th.
- Don’t be afraid to do something different. Go away or stay home, but take a risk to use the holidays to try something different.
- Keep mindful to avoid unrealistic expectations. Expectations are often the fuel that feeds that “let down” feeling. Instead of focusing on what isn’t, focus on what is and what can be.
- Don’t make New Year’s resolutions. We rarely keep them. Then we feel like failures and beat ourselves up over it! Instead, ask yourself “What have I learned this year about myself and about life?” Then, if you feel really ambitious, focus on how you can use that information to enhance the coming year.
- Keep your perspective. A year from now, when you will look back on this holiday season, you will be amazed at how far you’ve come.
Coping with festive holidays when you are divorced or separated
Seasonal and festive holidays like Christmas can be really hard for parents not living with their children. When non-resident parents call our helpline around the Christmas period, they often feel jealous, lonely, sad, angry and resentful. Separated families may feel as though everyone else is enjoying the perfect family festivities, while they feel more isolated and alone than during the rest of the year.
This situation can be distressing and tense and it can really help to talk to someone about how you feel. Some non-resident parents who call us are sad that they can’t watch their children open their presents at Christmas. From a legal point of view, it can be very frustrating for non-resident parents if the resident parent doesn’t grant access over Christmas, but it may be possible to come to an informal arrangement.
It’s usually best to start the conversation with your children’s other parent as early as possible, to give yourself plenty of time to come to arrangement about times and days to see the children. If, for example, the resident parent has the children on Christmas Day, you may want to arrange a time on Christmas Day when you can give the children their presents.
You could suggest an arrangement of alternating the years, so that you get to spend Christmas Day with the children every other year. In the other years, you could even arrange a ‘fake Christmas’, when you get to do all the traditional festive things you like to do with your family, just on a different day. That way, everybody gets to have a full festive experience, and the children get to celebrate twice.
Making long-term plans
Reaching a long term deal and being flexible will work to everyone’s benefit. A separated mother said: “My eldest daughter is going to be with her dad for Christmas day this year. I’m going to miss her terribly but need to be fair to her dad.
“It might sound a bit extreme, but I find it helps to plan what will happen at Christmas a year ahead. I have a rota with my daughter’s dad as to who has her when. It doesn’t make it less painful not being with her when it’s not my turn, but it makes it easier to plan early celebrations and visits to relatives so no-one feels they’re missing out.”
This situation can also affect grandparents. The parents of the non-resident parent will be unlikely to see their grandchildren at Christmas which can be upsetting. Like the non-resident parent, grandparents could try to organise a special day, or a time around Christmas, when they could give their grandchildren presents.
One separated parent said: “I find it extremely difficult handling the upset that not spending Christmas Day together causes my daughter’s grandparents who want to see her. We’ve arranged to have Christmas earlier so we can all be together.”
Another said: “It gets me down that my ex-wife always has the children on Christmas Day and I have to wait for Boxing Day. Some years she has taken them away for Christmas and I haven’t seen them until New Year, which is really upsetting.”
How to make time together special
The time that you do spend with your children over Christmas should be special. Many separated parents try to outdo each other, which is likely to lead to stress and disappointment, as you often can’t live up to the expectations and may end up feeling second best. Similarly, non-resident parents sometimes feel that they must compete with their children’s other parent when it comes to buying presents. When one parent is spending a large amount on expensive gifts, or taking the children on a costly holiday, the other parent may feel that he or she can’t offer the same amount. This can lead to heartache, as parents may feel like they have let their children down if they cannot afford to compete.
Christmas present competition
A separated father said: “My ex-wife always seems to turn Christmas into a competition to see who can outdo the other by buying the ‘best’ presents. Every year I ask her to let me know what she’ll be buying the children so I can make sure I don’t buy the same thing, but she doesn’t. So I feel I can’t get them what they really want in case she’s got there first. In previous years I’ve been delighted to buy them something I knew was on their list, only to have them unwrap it on Boxing Day and say: ‘Thanks Dad, but Mum bought me this too.’ It’s disappointing for the children and means I’ve had to waste a lot of time changing presents afterwards.”
Explaining to your children that you aren’t giving them the presents that they want can be hard, but your children will appreciate your honesty. Try not to give throw-away responses such as ‘because I said so’, but instead justify yourself, telling your child that you don’t think a gift is suitable or is overpriced. You can try to compromise with older children by saying that you will contribute towards an expensive present if they make up the difference.
Parents who have to spend Christmas alone
If you will not get the chance to see your children on Christmas Day, and will be alone, see if you can make arrangements with your friends. If anyone close to you is in the same situation, why not organise to see them; volunteer or invite them round for lunch so that you will not be by yourself. Sometimes the parent living with the children can be caused stress by a non-resident parent who doesn’t want to see his or her children over the festive period, or is unreliable.
It can be heartbreaking to explain that their other parent won’t be visiting over Christmas, but it will be kinder if you remain positive, and try not to criticise him or her too much in front of the children, no matter how angry you feel.
Coming out over Holidays
First: Thank them for opening up to you
“The first thing to say is, ‘I feel so honored, blessed, happy, like a treasured person in your life that you want to share this with me,'” Grant said. “And then listen.” Show interest and empathy. For some, coming out is a struggle, she said. For others, it’s exciting. The person may offer up preferred pronouns, or mention a previously undisclosed partner, but don’t rush the process or overstep by asking prying questions, Grant said.
Set the tone for acceptance among your family
Reactions from family members may vary from surprise, to gladness, to dismay. Let them know how to address this new-to-them aspect of your guest’s identity and that you expect them to be treated no less than anyone else at the table, said Marsha Aizumi, a PFLAG national board member from Pasadena, Calif. If a relative’s coming out announcement came at the dinner table, “I would jump up and immediately give them a hug,” she said. If unkind remarks fly, call them out; the brief discomfort doesn’t outweigh any potentially damaging effects.
Help relatives process the new info
When Aizumi’s transgender son came out during the holidays, she dealt with feelings of shame, fear and doubt. Family members might need time beyond a holiday to fully process the new information, she said. You can lift some burden from a newly out family member by having a dialogue and educating family members who have questions or seem less accepting. While it’s important to allow space to reflect for yourself and others, Aizumi said, make clear to the newly out relative that you still love that person. “My son needed to hear it more than ever,” she said.
Own your mistakes with grace
Even family members striving to be inclusive can let an unintentional pronoun slip. Opportunities for fumbles and unintentional hurt abound as family members adjust and learn more about a newly out relative’s orientation or identity. Fostering grace is key for all parties. There’s nothing wrong with simply owning a mistake.
Follow up after the holiday
In the days following a holiday gathering, check in with your newly out family member. Remind them you appreciated their presence. Ask them how they thought it went. Understand their journey with your family goes beyond this first holiday. Ben Hodges, the son of PFLAG President Jean Hodges, first introduced his partner to his family 21 years ago. “Remember that telling family and friends you are LGBTQ is a process,” he said. “This is a healthy dialogue that will not be resolved over the holiday meal.”
LGBT friendly Churches/Synagogues/etc. and navigating the “traditional values” situations with families.
Things you can do to support the gay community
- Use social media to post about holiday events held at your local LGBT community center or by local LGBT community groups. For example, many gay and lesbian music and performance groups stage holiday concerts in major cities across the country.
- Write about holiday celebrations that are happening at a local LGBT or LGBT-affirming church, mosque, temple or synagogue.
- Consider covering the story of a family in which someone has come out during the holidays.
- Speak to LGBT people and families about their experience taking a partner or spouse home for the first time to meet their extended family.
- Interview a transgender person about their experience coming home for the holidays after starting their transition, share their stories with others you know.
- Talk with LGBT people about alternative holiday celebrations that may include more than just immediate family, such as close friends, extended family and other community members who make up the person’s “chosen family.”
- Highlight the struggles of a bi-national same-sex couple that is separated during the holidays due to unfair and non-inclusive U.S. immigration laws.
- Profile LGBT community members and their reflections on the upcoming year as they approach their celebrations of Lunar New Year, New Year’s Eve, Muharram or other new year’s events.