A Divorced Dad's Guide To Holiday Happiness

Three ways to flip the pain of divorce on its head this holiday season.

A Divorced Dad's Guide To Holiday Happiness [EXPERT]

You know what time of year it is when you hear the ringing of the Salvation Army bells across the city. It's like the rite of passage, turning Thanksgiving into Christmas. It's a tradition created by our culture.

Family schedules turn hectic and tiring as we try to fit in both sides of the family for holiday plans. Some opt for the easier route and don't spend any time with relatives or flip flop relatives for each holiday. Maybe Thanksgiving with dad's side of the family and Christmas with mom's side and switch the next year. Watching the smiles on our kid's face as they open presents is priceless.


When divorce occurs, traditions of visiting family leave an unfulfilled emptiness regardless of the busy-ness of your schedule. This time of year is hard on divorced dads, especially those recently divorced. The opportunities to see your kids smiling are cut in half, at best. Divorce can be like putting on a pair of glasses with dark grey lenses — life turns dull, grim and depressing.

Believe it or not, it does not have to be that way. Take it from a man who has been divorced for over five years. Each holiday after my divorce, I become happier than the previous years, when I was married, due to my newfound independence.


Why is this? Because even though the divorce was not fully my choice, the way I reacted to it was — completely. I saw my divorce as an event to re-create my life by reconnecting with my family and friends, starting new traditions with my kids and enjoying my independence. Here's how you can, too:

1. Reconnecting With Family And Friends. You create and chose where you place your intention. A thought is a snowflake that grows into a snowball and eventually an avalanche; if you focus on your negative emotions, that's what you will create: a life filled with negativity. But if you place your intention on others — making them happy, getting to know them, nurturing your love for them — you create happiness and love which soon will define your world.

You can do this by taking time during the holidays to reconnect with family and friends. Develop deeper relationships. Host a holiday party at your house or better yet, organize a holiday-oriented volunteer event like ringing a Salvation Army bell with a group of family and friends.

2. Starting New Traditions With Your Kids. Time that's free of activity is time to create something anew. Now that you don't have to go to both sides of the family this "emptied" time can be used to start a new tradition. One great idea that serves many purposes is decorating Christmas stockings. Each year decorate stockings and try to sprinkle in memories of the prior year. Magic happens as the years pass. The stockings reflect their memories, their maturity and their time with you.


3. Enjoy Your Independence. Every other year I had my kids for Thanksgiving. For Christmas, I had the kids on Christmas Eve, my ex on Christmas Day. Was I sad when I did not have my kids? A little, but that soon passed. I enjoyed my independence. Here are a few ideas you can do with your new found independence. 

  • Volunteer somewhere. On Thanksgiving start your day off early by volunteering, delivering food for Meals on Wheels, for example. Don't forget to reward yourself by getting a cup of coffee and donut on the way.
  • Do something you enjoy. After the celebratory dinner with family or friends, do something you enjoy like a night at the movies, watching a double feature at the local theater. Choose to enjoy your independence, grasp it with opportunity; don't wallow and surround yourself with negative emotions.

The Greek philosopher Epictetus wrote, "It's not what happens to you, it is how you reach to it that matters." Divorce is difficult and hard but it does not have to be sad. Choose to be happy.

During the holiday season take off the dark shades of depression and focus your attention on making others happy. Create happiness by reconnecting with family and friends, starting new traditions with your kids and enjoying your independence. Each year you hear the ringing of the Salvation Army bells, it can be your rite of passage, turning sadness of divorce into happiness from your new found independence.