Your first holiday post-divorce (or separation) will no doubt be new emotional territory. You have gotten so used to the way things used to be and this new holiday season will not be the same. The uncertainty of the situation can be stressful. The practical questions arise: who will have the kids when? Who should get which gifts? Which parties will my ex attend and which will I attend? How do you respond when people ask about the divorce? Figuring out the answers to these questions can be overwhelming and complicated.
We have developed tips to help you survive—or dare I say enjoy-- the holiday season:
- Spend time with friends, co-workers and family! Surround yourself with the people you love and who support you. Focus your energy on providing joy for others, so you won’t spend your energy worrying too much about the past. If you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out. Your loved ones want to do everything they can to serve YOU, so be specific when asserting what you need help with. Look for a Divorce Support group. Host a Hallmark movie watch party. You can even be a volunteer at a soup kitchen or hospital. Whatever you do, do not avoid being around others and spend your entire holiday alone!
- Have a staycation! Show yourself some love. Escape the monotony of your regular routine and focus on self-care! Get a massage, book a hotel room downtown, go to the spa, or visit your favorite museum. Treat yourself to something special because you earned it! A little vacation can help you relax, recharge, and allow you to put things into perspective.
- Create new memories and special traditions. You are vulnerable, so rather than pondering old memories, show your appreciation for your new situation. This is your chance to celebrate the season exactly how you want to. Want to take a carriage ride through the colorfully lit neighborhood? Go for it! Ever wanted to build a gingerbread house while listening to Mariah Carey’s Christmas album on repeat? No one is going to stop you! Invite a few friends over for a slumber party. You can wear PJs and bake some cookies, have a few laughs and enjoy each other’s company!
- Invite peace, happiness, and joy in! It is okay to have fun and be happy, even in this difficult time and even if it is for just a moment! Cherish the moments when you start to feel good. Just think to yourself “I am okay, this is enjoyable” when you are having fun. Let go of guilt. If you are feeling guilty about something, express it to a trusted friend and then release it. Realize that you do not have to be perfect and you are not obligated to feel a certain way. Let go of the pressure to meet unrealistic expectations and you will be surprised how relieved you feel.
- Coordinate the details of visitation with your ex! Out of consideration for your kids’ feelings, put your troubles aside when around the kids. Co-parenting in a civilized manner can make or break a child’s experience after a divorce. When it comes to holiday scheduling, it does take a little extra planning. Discuss who will be getting which gifts, in order to avoid overlap! Don’t worry about getting expensive presents…your presence and love is most important. Choose a drop off/pick up location that is neutral—or maybe even festive. Seeing their sweet smiles headed off to meet Santa at the mall will make it easier to leave them for a little while.
- And on that note…Share your kids! This may be the first holiday without seeing your children every day—which is tough. Be willing to share the kids, cooperate, communicate and be flexible. Kids will quickly learn to love having “double holidays”. Their well-being and happiness is one of your biggest priorities. Remember that they love both of you and it is important to allow them to enjoy time with each of you. Take this opportunity to teach them lessons that will stick with them much longer than that trendy new toy. Your positive attitude about this is one of the best gifts you can give your children right now.
- Set your intention for the next year. Take this opportunity to really evaluate what you want to accomplish. Now is the perfect time to try out your new independence. Think of something that you always wanted to try and just never got around to. Start a bullet journal. Create a list of New Year’s resolutions and find an accountability buddy who can motivate you to achieve your goals. Some ideas for resolutions include: incorporate an old hobby back into your life, discover a new hobby, revamp your fitness regimen, get rid of old habits that bring you down, read more, start your spring cleaning early or start saving up to travel to your favorite destination. The new year is a great time to start becoming the person you have always wanted to be.
Rest assured that you can and you will get through this, too. You have endured a tough season in your life and will only grow stronger on the other side. Allow the Holiday Spirit to bring you cheer, hope, & forgiveness. Embrace and accept that your holidays will be different now. Your kids will most likely follow your lead and accept the change, too. It will only get easier with each passing year. Consider this a new beginning for you—a new opportunity to create the life you deserve.