For many, the holidays are about family. That’s why navigating this time of year is challenging for people planning to divorce. By giving yourself time to plan the coming weeks and exercising some self-care, it can be a manageable period for you and your family.
Accept Your Emotions
No matter your family situation, you are bound to feel some measure of sadness or stress during the holidays. It’s okay to acknowledge this, at least to yourself. Take some time to plan activities outside your family and engage with the community. If you are suddenly without your spouse or children full-time, it can be lonely. But it is also a chance to do something you’ve never done before.
It can help to remember your children are also going through a hard time. By switching your focus to their needs, you can perhaps better manage your own emotions. You can tell your kids you will miss them when you’re apart, but that you are glad they are spending time with their other parent.
Get on the Same Page
Divorce is fraught with a range of difficult emotions. Even spouses who want to remain civil and provide the best care for their children can experience anger and hurt. It’s not easy to protect children from this reality, but you can try by agreeing to focus on making the holidays as stress-free as possible.</divp
You can implement a “let it go” policy, which simply means not getting caught up in some things that might make you angry. If it’s not essential to deal with now, try to let it go until January — or let it go completely.
Sometimes, it’s tough to know what you should address and what you should let go. Chat about it with a close friend if you’re conflicted, or give your attorney a call.
Talk About What’s Happening
If possible, keep a united front with your spouse. You can let people know how you plan to divide your time over the holidays. Specifically, you can tell close family where the children will be and what they understand about the situation.
For the sake of the children, and depending on your circumstances, you may want to encourage your own family to be welcoming and kind to your former spouse. That can minimize the stress on the kids as they navigate the holidays between two homes, perhaps for the first time.
Plan in Advance
Consider having more than one family dinner on important days, or expand the celebration period to include multiple dates. If you celebrate Christmas, your kids can have dinner with you on Christmas Eve and with your spouse on Christmas Day, for example. Or, if possible, you can continue to have one dinner all together.
Regardless of the specific arrangements, try to have the schedule in place as early as possible. That way, children will feel more stable and cared for during this time of year. Hopefully, you and your spouse can come up with a reasonable time-sharing schedule that works for everyone.
Since holiday-themed advertisements and storefront decorations start to appear as early as November, try to have a plan in place by the first of this month. That way, children will have less stress and worry as the idea of the holidays begins to set in.
Keep Old Traditions
Especially if you have an amicable relationship with your spouse, it may be worth it to hang on to some family customs that make the holiday season memorable. There’s nothing wrong with your spouse coming over for Christmas morning to be there when the children open gifts, for example.
Some experts recommend reinforcing to kids that these events don’t mean their parents are getting back together. As a family, you can decide how to navigate these issues. Keeping traditions going can also mean doing on your own with your children what you used to do all together, like setting aside time to decorate the tree, wrap gifts, or string the house holiday lights.
More than anything, it is important to signal to your children that they can still enjoy the holidays even if they are spending time in two houses. Old traditions can help them to feel connected to the past but still able to adjust to a new future with divorced parents.
On top of remembering those important old traditions, it can be helpful for everyone to start new traditions that they can also treasure for years to come.
Keep Up Your Spirits
While there are many specific ways you can plan for a holiday season that supports you and your children, perhaps the most important is to remain open to this new reality. No matter how well you plan, challenges will arise. As a parent and spouse, you don’t have to be perfect. Take it one day at a time, and enjoy the happy moments — those are the ones that turn into treasured memories, for you and your children.