The holidays are typically a time for celebration with friends and family. Yet, when you're divorcing, the season can feel anything but merry. To help you enjoy this holiday time instead of dreading it, here are 21 tips you can use today to survive your divorce and the holidays.
1. Be Patient
Even in the best of times, the holidays can be a bit hectic. However, when you're celebrating the holidays for the first time on your own, they can feel more than hectic. They can feel overwhelming! You've got so much going on emotionally with your divorce that the added tasks, events and scheduling of the holidays can all be just a bit too much.
But be patient with yourself, your kids and the rest of your family as you navigate the holidays. This is new and different for everyone, and a little patience will go a long way toward making your first holidays post-separation/divorce more enjoyable than you might believe they can be right now.
2. Be Flexible
The holidays are about celebrating with family and friends and don't have to occur only on one specific day. Many of my clients who are celebrating the holidays for the first time as a single parent will get tied up with the idea that holidays can only happen on the official day marked on the calendar. For example, it's not unusual for them to think that Thanksgiving Day can ONLY happen on the fourth Thursday of November (as it does here in the US). However, with a bit of advance planning (more about that in tip 16), you may decide that Thanksgiving will actually happen the Saturday before the fourth Thursday of November so you can celebrate it with your kids. Having an early Thanksgiving even has the added benefit of allowing you to avoid the crowd buying their last-minute turkey and fixings!
Think about it from your kids' point of view too. Most kids love the holidays and having double the celebration — one with Mom and one with Dad — might be something the kids think is great!
3. Focus On Others
Another way to enjoy the holiday season is to focus on those less fortunate than you. I understand there are times when you feel like the most unfortunate person around (at least that's how I felt at times when I was going through my divorce), but you really can survive your divorce and the holidays by being willing to recognize that it could be worse.
You might want to consider volunteering at a soup kitchen or at a center that provides holiday shopping for needy families. I can guarantee that when you focus on providing joy for those less fortunate than you an amazing thing happens; you forget about your troubles and appreciate what you do have even more.
4. It's Not About The Stuff
Gift giving is often a big part of the holiday season. With separation and divorce, the funds available for gift giving are usually less than they were before. However, gifts don't need to be purchased to be appreciated. Sometimes the gift of time and attention means more than any store-bought gift ever could.
5. Let Happiness Happen
For a lot of people going through divorce, it can seem strange to experience any emotion other than some form of upset. Divorce is an upsetting event that can be almost all consuming. However, if you start to feel happy as a result of the holiday events, ENJOY the feeling! You deserve to be happy and enjoy the holidays just as much as everyone else does.
6. Reach Out To Family And Friends
Almost everyone I know wishes someone could read their mind and offer help when it's needed. On the other hand, I don't know anyone who can read minds with any real reliability. The message here is if you need a little extra help getting your holidays to feeling merrier, ask for it. Don't wait for someone to guess what you need because there's a chance that they might not guess correctly.
7. Make New Family Traditions
So many things change with divorce. Some of these changes are not so comfortable, but some are good and might even be fun. What new family tradition can you introduce this holiday season to keep things fun? When I got divorced, my new tradition was spending Christmas with my family. We had almost always spent Christmas with my in-laws when I was married to my first husband. I've had fun spending the holidays with my parents, siblings, and their families since then.
8. Nix The Guilt
So many divorced parents feel guilty about how the kids' holidays will be different. The thing is, "different" doesn't necessarily mean bad or wrong. Different is just different. If you nix the guilt and embrace the new way your holidays will be, then your kids will enjoy the holidays too. After all, if the kids are now having double the celebrations, it's worth making sure they're having fun with you, even if it is different.
9. Work With Your Ex
One of the things I always tell my clients is that their divorce is between them and their former spouse. The holidays can be a wonderful experience for the kids, provided that is the shared goal you and your former spouse have for them. I know of one couple who have agreed for the kids' dad to have them for the holidays because his parents are still around and hers aren't. She celebrates the holidays with the kids at another time. The result? Everyone's able to make the most of the holidays!
10. Continue Your Traditions, But Simplify Them
You may have holiday traditions that are important to you, but they just are not possible now that you're divorced. What can you do to tweak these traditions so that you can still have them? For example, maybe you have had a holiday tradition of going skiing. If that kind of a trip isn't possible this year, you may choose to do something else that captures the essence of the traditional ski trip. You may decide to play ski jumping on the Wii, have a marshmallow fight instead of a snowball fight and drink hot chocolate afterwards. Let your creativity flow and I know you'll be able to create a modified tradition this year that you'll still enjoy. Keep reading...
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