5 TIPS ON HOW TO SURVIVE THE HOLIDAYS DURING A DIVORCE
Is this your first holiday after separation? Christmas and divorce just don’t seem to go together, do they?
In our busy law office, divorce clients who come to us during the holidays always seem more distressed or upset than at other times of the year. We understand.
These divorce and annulment clients are going through a difficult and stressful period of their lives. And they’re doing so at a time of year when the world expects us all to give more, love more, and forgive more. They get confused and wonder how to find it within themselves to do all of that while going through a divorce.
If children are involved, getting a divorce at this time of the year can become even more difficult, and emotional, to navigate.
No doubt you need a plan.
One thing to remember is that oftentimes, our emotional state is anchored to familiar actions and surroundings. This can be good since it shows stability during a time of chaos. But, doing only those same things you’ve always done isn’t going to take you to that place where you’ve created your own new holiday traditions by mixing the old with the new.
So, the very first thing to do is to change that. You might not want to do things differently, but if you’ll just push yourself a little, you’ll be glad you made the effort. To stay stuck in your “same old” isn’t the solution to lifting your spirits.
If you have children, it’s even more important to put on a good face. They need to know that mommy and daddy still love them and care enough to make the holiday as normal and happy as can be, despite the circumstances.
5 TIPS—SURVIVING THE HOLIDAYS DURING DIVORCE
1. If possible, venture out of your usual holiday surroundings. Visit out-of-state family, for instance. If this is not possible, see below.
2. Start a new tradition, on your own or with your children if you have them. DO keep some things the same; stability and knowing that not everything in their lives will change is important to children. That said, find one new thing you could add to what you’ve always done. This will keep you focused on the positive and new rather than distressing over what’s been lost.
For the kids, it could be fun and take their minds off what’s now different, namely, that for the first time in their lives, they are with only one parent at a time for this year’s holiday.
For instance, Tom had always wanted to take the kids ice-skating around the holidays, but his soon-to-be ex-wife didn’t like it at all, so they never went. During his first holiday season without his ex, he added this event to what had been their holiday traditions while he was married. He took his children to an ice-skating rink, followed by hot chocolate at their favorite coffee shop. It turned out to be a hit with them and gave everyone hope that the holidays could still be a happy time for them despite the divorce.
3. If your children will be with your ex on the holiday itself, plan to do something to help others. It’s a well-known fact that helping others lifts our spirits. Consider volunteering your time to a shelter on that day, for instance, would take your mind off your own suffering and warm your heart as you help others even less fortunate than you. Or find other single parents whose children will be with their other parent that day and celebrate together, doing something none of you usually does on that day.
Karen reached out to two other friends whose children would be with their other parent for the last day of Hanukkah. She arranged ahead of time for them to visit residents of a nursing home who didn’t get visitors or whose families lived out-of-state. They bought several low-cost gifts and wrapped them in bright paper and delivered them to these residents with good wishes, bringing tears of joy to the eyes of many of them. By the end of the visit, the women were thankful for the blessings they still had in their own lives. They followed this up with a special dinner at a restaurant none of them had ever visited. They vowed to do it again the next time their children were with their other parent for a holiday.
4. Your children need love from both parents during this time. The goal is to keep them from thinking they’re being pulled between their parents and made to feel guilty for being with one or the other parent on any given day. If you’re still working out the holiday visitation schedule, be sure that the children have ample time with each parent and vary it up, from year to year if the children have to travel some distance between you and your ex-spouse.
Is a certain holiday very important to both you and your spouse? Try to make it so you both get the children for a portion of it, but be sure and do it in a way that is enjoyable to the children too. But, if you live far apart, it would most likely be best to agree to an alternate-year holiday visitation schedule.
Robert and Diane, who live 500 miles apart, agreed that their two children should spend the whole winter school break together at least until their late teens, and arranged things so the children spent the December holidays with Diane during odd years and with Robert during even years.
Having to fly or take a bus to another state or country, or even city, to get from one parent to another on a holiday to meet a visitation schedule would probably make your child dread that holiday rather than look forward to it.
5. Last, but most important, do NOT become a recluse. Even if you’d rather pull a double shift at work, or stick your hand in fire, force yourself to go out and mingle with good friends or family (stay away from those who constantly bring up negative things about your ex, or ask them to stop). Your spirits will lift from your new activities! We are social creatures and even when feeling low, we derive happiness and comfort from being around others.
If you want even more advice, or ideas, on going through a divorce during the holidays, you might find some here: https://www.divorcecare.org/holidays/helpcenter/helpingchildren
Happy Holidays to everyone!