Tips For The Holidays While In The Middle Of A Divorce
- Plan Ahead the Schedule.
If you and you’re your soon to be former spouse haven’t figured out what days the kids will be with each of you for the holidays, do it now! Waiting until the last minute to set up the holiday and school break schedule will just add more stress during this stressful time.
While planning the schedule, make sure to also plan the travel arrangements. It’s one thing to agree that the kids will go from one home to another at 3:00 p.m. It’s quite another to decide who has to leave in the middle of their Christmas gathering to go get them.
If your children are past toddler age, make sure that you ask their input in the planning process. Chances are, your kids already feel powerless by your divorce. Including them in planning changes that. It gives them a voice, and a chance to feel like a part of something again. It also gives you the ability to connect with your kids on a deeper level by learning what is important to them.
- Perfection Doesn’t Exist.
Trying to create “the perfect holiday” is the fastest way to have a horrible one. It puts an enormous amount of added stress on you and your children.
Instead of “perfect,” try going for “happy” or “ peaceful.” Pick a goal that is simple, attainable, and realistic.
- Bring your Expectations to Reality.
The holidays problem is that all of us have our own ideas of what a holiday “should” be like. For example, we think we should be happy. We should give and get the perfect gifts. We should bake perfect cookies. And everyone should get along perfectly.
Where do all of these “should” come from? Your parents? Who says that the idea you have in your head of how your holiday “should” be is the only way, or even the best way, to experience a holiday?
The more you “should” all over yourself, the worse you are going to feel. For once, just this year, try forgetting about what you “should” do and what the holidays “should” be, and try to enjoy what “is” … no matter what “is”!
- Celebrate the holiday spirit.
The spirit of Christmas is bigger than you. It is a spirit of selflessness and love. This year, focus on trying to connect with that spirit and doing something for someone else who is less fortunate than you. It may sound cliché, but sharing your time and energy with others who have even less than you do will remind you of how truly lucky you are, in spite of your divorce and everything that goes along with it.
If you want to be really radical, extend the holiday spirit to your ex as well. Put your own feelings aside and take your kids Christmas shopping so they can get a gift for your ex. Make sure they invite your ex to their school holiday celebration and other holiday activities. Show them that, regardless of how you may feel about your ex, you respect him or her as your child’s other parent.
Sure, if you and your ex are engaged in World War III, bringing peace (even just temporarily) may not be possible. After all, going through a divorce during the holidays is undeniably tough! At the same time, you might be surprised at what happens if you try
- Let go of guilt feelings
Nothing sucks the joy out of the holidays more quickly than the feeling of guilt. Plus, whether you realize it or not, your guilty feelings affect your kids, too. Your children feel bad because you feel bad, or they get spoiled because you try to overcompensate to make up for everything.
So, this year, give yourself the gift of a “guilt free” holiday. Instead of feeling guilty that your kids no longer have the same holiday celebrations that they used to have, try feeling grateful for the fact that you can create new holiday traditions. Instead of feeling guilty for not being the “perfect” parent or giving your kids the “perfect” childhood, try feeling grateful that you can teach your kids how to be flexible and how to deal with life’s imperfections.
Feeling grateful is one of the best ways to shift yourself out of guilt and into a more positive state.
Another way to ditch your guilt is to pay attention to the voice in your head. When your inner voice starts criticizing you for ruining your kids’ holidays, or telling you how pathetic you are, interrupt it! Thank the voice for sharing. Then re-focus yourself on something more positive.
- Don’t entertain Drama.
This holiday season, try to spread peace instead of anger. (This one is tough, especially if you have a high conflict ex.) But, for your kids’ happiness, try doing as much as you can to calm the conflict.
How do you do that? First, decide you’re not going to fight during the holidays. As simple as that may seem, just making a decision not to fight makes it more likely that you will ditch the drama.
Second, do your holiday planning as far in advance as possible. Suck up your feeling of dread and talk to your soon to be former spouse about holiday schedules and parties and gifts. The more you plan in advance, the less there is to fight about later.
Finally, avoid consuming any alcohol until after you’ve dealt with your soon to be ex for the day. While non-alcoholic egg nog may not be your favorite holiday drink, it also won’t make you say or do anything embarrassing to use against you later in court.
- Create a Great Holiday for Your Kids.
In our culture we tend to equate “having fun” with being materialistic. But having fun is an experience –it’s not a “thing!” This Christmas, instead of going into debt to buy your kids more stuff they don’t need, focus on creating experiences your kids will never forget. In other words, go out of your way to create “magical moments.”
While most people think that magical moments “just happen,” the truth is that you can create them. The problem, of course, is that creating magical moments takes work! So starting early helps!
The kind of magical moments that will speak to your kids depends on who they are and how old they are. If your kids are younger you could make homemade gifts. You can build a gingerbread house. You could go sledding or Christmas caroling.
We hope this helps you plan accordingly as the Christmas holiday is upon us!