The holiday season can be filled with joy, meaning, and quality time with loved ones. However, if you’re going through a divorce or separation, it may instead feel more overwhelming and stressful. This is your first holiday season where you have to share your time with your kids after the divorce. We understand the immense grief, loss, and challenge you’re facing to make this a special time for your family. Whether you initiated the divorce or not, you will need to create new traditions.
Divorce rates peak in January, meaning many parents will also be navigating the challenges of this holiday season. You might be dealing with dissatisfaction, bitterness, or simply feel lost on how to move forward.
How will you maintain the holidays as a special, magical time for your kids? What will it take for you not only get through this first holiday season as a single parent, but also create lasting new traditions for you and your kids?
One journalist wrote a few tips after spending her first Christmas without her loved ones a couple of years ago. Here are some highlights and some tips of our own for spending your holidays after the losses that come from divorce:
- Embrace new beginnings. As difficult as it is, try to view this holiday season as an opportunity to start new traditions that fit your new family situation. The more often you cling to old traditions and ways of doing things, the harder it will be. Focus on building new traditions.
- Maintain some of your children’s favorite traditions even as you build your new ones.
- Consider alternate dates. Rather than having the kids divide the actual holiday between parents, choose separate days to celebrate. They don’t want to spend Christmas in the car.
- Try to come to as much agreement as possible on what the holidays will look like. You’re going to need to work together to make the magic happen. Communicate your vision and priorities.
- Be careful not to over-gift or gift competitively. Prioritize meaningful time together over excessive gift-giving.
- Establish emotional boundaries for yourself and decide in advance how you’ll react if your ex pushes your buttons.
- Release comparisons. Try not to compare your life to your ex’s – or anyone else’s. Avoid judging yourself by trying to have that “picture-perfect” holiday. You may feel like everyone is having a wonderful time but you, but this is not true.
- Practice self-compassion. Permit yourself to feel and process anger grief or regret. You may be furious with your ex or grieving the situation but be nurturing toward yourself. You’re not going to feel jolly all the time, so be okay with that.
- In general, give yourself a break and lower your expectations. Not every holiday season has to be the stuff of legend.
- From a legal perspective, it’s important to comply with any agreements or court orders you already have. If you have a separation agreement that discusses how to divide the holidays, be sure you follow that order.
Navigating the holidays post-separation without clear custody agreements, can exacerbate feelings of confusion and chaos for you and your kids. We strongly encourage you to reach out now to a compassionate family lawyer to set up an interim custody agreement. These legal guidelines bring much-needed clarity to important logistical matters such as decision-making and time sharing schedules. Having arrangements formally outlined demonstrates your commitment to stability and your children’s best interests during the turbulence of divorce. Seek legal advice from a lawyer who will listen to your priorities and put your family first..