Dealing With Divorce During the Holidays

We are going into the crazy-fun time of year known as "the holidays." It is a time of gathering together with family and friends, feasting, going to parties, and having a good time.  Unfortunately, for those going through a divorce, and especially those trying to co-parent, the holidays can be a time of endless stress, arguments and calls to their attorney.  It can really make it difficult to get yourself into the festive, holiday spirit.  Hopefully, the following tips will be useful.

  1. Relax - This is supposed to be a joyous time.  Don't spend it winding yourself up into knots.  Be patient with yourself, definitely with your children, and with the other members of your family.  You will probably find yourself grieving what you feel that you have lost and old wounds may try to reopen.  Try to focus on the positive aspects and true meaning of the holidays.
  2. Plan ahead - Plan to do something really fun for the holidays.  Put it on the calendar so that it is something to look forward to.  If you are unable to get together with family or friends, maybe plan a vacation getaway.
  3. Create new family traditions - A divorce may mean that you can no longer have certain family traditions.  Now is an excellent time to let go of the past and start new rituals and family traditions.  Maybe the ex got all of the Christmas decorations in the divorce.  This is your opportunity to take the kids to select new decorations.  Maybe you start taking them to buy or make a new ornament each year.
  4. Be flexible - What is more important, that you and your family are together or that you are together on one specific day?  Keep focused on what is important.  My family is made up of so many "blended families" that we gave up celebrating major holidays on the actual day years ago.  We now plan our celebrations on the Sunday preceding the holiday so as not to conflict with anyone else's plans.  It as worked out great and we all get to spend time together.
  5. Remember the children - Reassure them that holiday celebrations will continue, but in a different way.  Take time to sit down and brainstorm with them about how they want to celebrate or new traditions they want to start.
  6. Keep the children's best interest in mind - Decide ahead of time with your ex how you are dividing the holidays.  Try to be civil with one another.  Reassure the children that you will be fine and encourage them to have a good time at the other parent's house.  Children often take their emotional cues from the parents.
  7. It's not a competition - The Beatles had it right, you can't buy love.  Do not try to compete with the other parent by buying/spending more on the children.  Make a budget and stick to it.  Chances are your finances are in a bit of a strain from the divorce anyway and now is not the time to max out your credit cards.
  8. Ask for help - Talk to your family, friends, counselors or other support system.  Remember you are not alone.
  9. Be realistic - Do not be seduced by the idea of a "Norman Rockwell" Christmas or other idealized family holiday.  People make themselves crazy trying to make everything perfect.  It is the whole premise for the classic "Christmas Vacation" movie.
  10. Take it easy, one day at a time - It will get easier.  It will hurt less.  Right now just focus on one thing at a time.
This is a time to be thankful for our blessings not to focus on what we do not have.  Rather than focus on the pain of divorce, concentrate on positive things.  Even small things, a great meal, a joke shared with family and friends, or just some quiet time away can create a better perspective and brighter holiday.

Photo courtesy of Louise Docker

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