Thanksgiving in Splitsville: The Life of Being a Child of Divorce

Previously published in The Campus
Design by Carmen Quang

In the few minutes it will take you to read this article, 10 marriages in the U.S. will end. That’s 10 more families that have to figure out how to deal with traditional family events, such as Thanksgiving. 10 more families attempting to sustain the love that comes with the holiday season. 10 more forced laughs, football rivalries, awkward hellos, painful goodbyes, and 10 more turkeys.

With every struggle in life, we all fall on a spectrum of being affected, and divorce is no exception. Each family handles this one way or another. Some resort to the ever so exciting screaming matches, or the melodramatic silent treatments. Some families have mastered a harmonious Thanksgiving. Most families, such as my own, are striving to find the line of amicable compromise. There are plenty of advantages and disadvantages to being a child of divorce during the holiday season.

The advantages include two dinners, a seemingly endless amount of pie, and two families to share thanks with. Disadvantages include a lack of stability, a lack of togetherness, and a level of disconnect transcending the joy.

The optimistic side of myself believed in “more family, more food, more love.” Whereas the realistic part of me needed to acknowledge the loss of love and the traditional family image that was marred. Yet, I must remember that my family is only one example of the many divorced Americans delving into Thanksgiving.

According to the American Psychological Association, roughly 50% of all marriages end in divorce. City College’s diverse student body provides many examples of how divorce affects families in different ways. My family has tried to develop a loving separation, and continue traditional family norms. Other students go through these same experiences in different ways.

Jonathan Mora, a junior studying Theatre and Psychology, has dealt with the effects of divorce his whole life. All the while, he was attempting to create a family environment for him and his sister. He states, “My sister and I are working on obtaining a friendly relationship with my mother and father, they were not in communication for 20 years. Now as adults, we wish to also connect more with [our father] and discover him as a person since [our parents] had this type of isolated relationship since we were children.”

Sarah Tuttle, a transfer student, has had divorced parents since as far back as she can remember. Because of this, a separated Thanksgiving is all she knows. What others might see as dysfunctional, she calls normal, and she loves it. Tuttle says that she would not change her Thanksgiving past, present, or future. “No, I wouldn’t change how I spend my Thanksgivings. It’s like you grow up knowing one thing and that becomes normal. Everything in my life has changed me in small or minute ways; I may be a ‘victim of circumstance’ but seeing everything that has accumulated to make the life I have now, I wouldn’t want to change it,” she shares.

Generally, people are innately resistant to change and the implications that come along with it. Such is true for children who have grown up in a broken family. At first, change is all that’s visible, whether it be a change in living situations or making unfamiliar faces familiar. Whether it be a change in living situations, or making unfamiliar faces familiar. Every aspect of this changed life requires acceptance, even when acceptance is the last thing given. Yet, when “dysfunction” is all that has been known, that too becomes normal. In this situation, any change that would bring the situation back to “normal” is unwanted.

So many claim that the solution to divorce is for the couple to get back together. As if they owe it to themselves, or moreso the children, to make it work. This is just a continuation of the problem. If love is lost, the solution is not to attempt to force a puzzle back together that has missing pieces. The solution is to see the broken puzzle at face value – to acknowledge each piece and see what it has to offer.

Thousands of students, including Sarah, Jonathan, and myself, can confirm that even though a divorced household is not ideal, it is not unsalvageable. Thanksgiving at its cliché core is about noticing all we have to be appreciative of. Whether your Thanksgiving experience is a traditional one, an awkward one, or some derivation of the two, all our families are longing to fill the day with love. Embrace every moment with family this holiday season, however hectic that family may be.

crop 2016 - 11_Page_10
crop 2016 - 11_Page_11

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