The student news site of Atlantic High School


The student news site of Atlantic High School


The student news site of Atlantic High School


A Split Christmas

Students of AHS speak up about what it’s like to have divorced parents during the holidays.
Alyssa Neal
Many students are feeling the effects of a split holiday during this Christmas season.

At this point in the year, Christmas trees have been brought out of their boxes, lights have been hung, and bells are ringing. Spirits are high and long await Christmas break. However, some students have a stressful holiday coming their way, and don’t have the option of staying wrapped up near a single fireplace all break long. Instead, they have a season of back and forth.

Of AHS students, more than 60 percent have divorced parents, and more than half say that this time of year can be hard and stressful. Whether they have to choose one parent over the other, travel between houses on Christmas day, or simply just wait to see what happens, children of divorced parents experience Christmas a little differently. 

Sophomore Madeline Blake said Christmas is a very stressful time for her. “There’s a lot of traveling involved and I only spend a couple of days in the same place.” As a child of split parents, it can be hard to not stress when Christmas break comes around. For Blake, and many other students, “it switches who gets Christmas every year.” These things can vary in many ways such as alternating every year, scheduled plans, or for Blake’s family, it’s based on “who had me and my sister for Thanksgiving.” 

Senior Mason McFadden also agrees that having divorced parents can make the holidays a little more hectic than what people expect. “Christmas is very stressful with timing and planning of family Christmases, as well as Christmas morning. Both family events often happen on the same day and I am unable to spend very much time with either side of the family.” McFadden said, “it’s very inconvenient,” and that he wishes he could “just spend time at one house without worrying about traveling back and forth.” 

“It’s very inconvenient”

— Mason McFadden

Christmas may be a time for joy, but some students also feel guilt. Being with one parent over another can be hard on kids, and students feel that burden as soon as the snow starts to fall. Blake said, “I always feel bad because one of my parents is alone on the holiday no matter what, since we have no family in the area they can be with.” 

Sophomore Rylee Bengel said, “It’s hard for me to not think of the other parent being alone, because staying at one parent’s house on Christmas Eve puts a lot of emotion on me due to my other parent not having us.” Bengel said that although it’s stressful, she tries to be grateful to see them both. 

“It’s hard for me to not think of the other parent being alone”

— Rylee Bengel

McFadden said, “Every year I wake up at my moms and feel bad that my dad has to wake up alone on Christmas, and then I feel bad for my mom when we have to leave before lunch to go to his house. I also have a step dad and his birthday is actually on Christmas day, so I feel bad for not spending much time with him either.”

As time goes on, however, and students get older, decision-making can be laid at their feet. “It is a lot easier now that I have a driver’s license and a car because I can go in between when I want without having to worry about them having to take time out of their day to take me,” said McFadden.

However, having the decision can be just as hard. Bengel said, “It has been a lot easier since I’ve gotten older, but I have a little sister who’s seven and sometimes, I struggle with picking which house to be at as I like spending the holidays with her too. I rarely choose which house I’m at though because of this, and just follow the schedule with my little sister.” 

Blake also relates to this. “I’m allowed to pick where I stay for the most part, but even if I could pick where I was for Christmas, I would choose to stay with my younger sister since she doesn’t get a say in where she goes yet. It definitely can get stressful because once we are back from both places, it takes a while to get back into our normal routine”

With divorced parents also comes a misconception of two perfect Christmases and double presents, food, and more. However, many students disagreed with this statement. McFadden said, “Many people have the misconception that having two Christmases is some amazing world where the presents are doubled and everything is great, but it’s actually just so much added stress and planning to a day that’s supposed to be fun and relaxing, especially when growing up.” Divorced parents also tend to have less financial stability than when married, creating another false accusation that there are doubled presents or twice the fun.

By the time winter break has reached its end, kids are burnt out. Instead of snuggling up by a fireplace all break long, many students here at AHS spend it packing bags and rushing from one family to the next. However, even when families are split, parents and families are working hard to make this holiday special for everyone. At the end of the day, especially the year, it comes down to family and the true meaning of the holiday. “My parents definitely still make the best of the holiday, even if they aren’t together,” said Bengel.


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About the Contributor
Alyssa Neal
Alyssa Neal, AHS Needle Senior Editor
Alyssa Neal is a senior at Atlantic High School, and has been in journalism for three years now. She is a lead editor for the AHS Needle website. Neal´s favorite part about journalism is all the different aspects there are to journalism. Neal likes that there are many different ways to hear the news so that ¨everybody in the school can hear the news how they want to hear it.¨ Neal´s favorite memory of journalism was when they went to the KCCI news center in Des Moinesand got to see where they filmed the news at. Neal is looking forward to seeing how fast and how well their AHS needle site is going to be this year because right now it's going really well. She wants to see how many badges the site will get. Her proudest story she has done is her coaches vs. cancer story that she wrote last year for Pink-Out. Other activities Neal is involved in are choir, show choir, cross-country manager, girls basketball manager, Quill and Scroll, AHS needle, and NHS. Neal´s future plans currently are to attend Northwestern Christian in Orange City,Iowa. She is unsure of what her major will be. Story by Aydrie Coffman

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