Twelve Ways to Enjoy the Post-Divorce Holidays
In Spite of a Divorce, You Can Still Enjoy the Holiday Season
The holiday season is fast approaching.
It is a stressful time in the best of situations.
Everyone’s expectations are high for perfect family-oriented days, happily gathered around a perfectly roasted turkey, or a magically decorated Christmas tree. But we know those visions tend to be more myth than reality.
With more families splitting up, restructuring, and becoming extended or blended families, holidays have become quite a challenge. But, there is hope. We are not alone in this struggle. The challenges are becoming the norm, more than the exception. We can be resilient. We can adapt to new circumstances. Even more so, we can turn a crisis, such as divorce, into an opportunity for growth and better things to come.
Here are 12 Steps to Enjoying the Holidays In Spite of Divorce.
12 Steps to Enjoying the Holidays After Divorce
Have Some Holiday Fun with Your Family and Friends This Year
1. Re-think Your Holiday Expectations
After a divorce, you should shake-up your holiday season expectations.
Don’t go into the holiday season on auto-pilot, following old patterns and old scripts just because “This is the way we’ve always done it.” Take a hard look at your past holiday traditions and be realistic about what may still work, and what won’t. Then, plan and act accordingly.
Most importantly, think things are going to be “different”, not “worse“. Perception is reality, and, if you have children, they likely will be looking to you for cues on how they should respond to the new family dynamic after divorce.
2. Start New Post-Divorce Holiday Traditions
Things don’t need to happen the way they always have, or the way corporate marketing would lead you to believe that they should. Think outside the box. Don’t let your perception of social norms get in the way of enjoying your holiday.
Holiday meals can be a pot-luck or a picnic. Some holiday time could be spent volunteering at the local shelter, giving warm meals to the homeless. You could take a vacation to a tropical beach while everyone else stays home and tries to fight off the cold. If you have other divorced friends, you could have large group gatherings of single dads/parents and their kids, where everyone exchanges White Elephant gifts. Invite military members, who are away from their families, to your home to have a holiday meal. Or you could be the person that volunteers to work on the holiday (some employers pay extra for working on a holiday!) and celebrate personally on an alternative day.
Your options are only limited by your imagination.
3. Make Your Holiday Plans Ahead of Time
For most people, the holidays can be a stressful time. With work, school, and church events to attend, shopping to get done, meals to prepare, family gatherings to coordinate, and presents to wrap and hide it is no wonder that people tend to get a bit overwhelmed during the holiday season.
When the holidays happen after a divorce – all of this becomes even more difficult.
Having a plan is essential to maintaining your holiday spirit, and, possibly, your sanity. Try using the 4-W System when formulating your holiday game-plan: track the What’s, Where’s, When’s, and Who’s. Select the events that you plan on attending (the “What’s”), and for each event, write out “Where” and “When” it will be, and “Who” you need to bring, as well as “Who” will be there.
Keep a ‘Notes’ section so that you can jot down anything you are supposed to bring with you, special wardrobe requirements, or any other unique circumstances that you need to prepare for prior to arriving at the event.
4. Take it Easy on Yourself
Depending on how long it’s been since your divorce, the holidays can feel more or less daunting.
The first holiday season after a divorce may carry a certain sense of loss with it. If that’s the case for you, be kind to yourself. Minimize external pressure. You don’t need to throw a huge family bash at your home if that’s too much for you to handle right now.
Think in terms of “small initiatives” instead. Maybe organizing an “aperitivo” (drinks and snacks) at your home, or a small gathering at a restaurant you like, would be easier than hosting a full-on holiday party.
Also, reward yourself with some self-care, such as a massage or a spur-of-the-moment afternoon off work.
5. Know Your Parenting Plan’s Holiday Schedule
Take a moment to re-read your parenting plan.
Most divorced parents have a parenting plan in place, which includes a holiday schedule. Remember to check the final version of the schedule – you’d be surprised how many parents forget what they agreed to.
If you want to make changes to the schedule, or if you want to travel with your child(ren), propose those changes early so that you have time to reach an agreement.
6. Be a Holiday Co-Parenting All-Star
Coordinate with the other parent around who organizes which event(s), and what presents to buy for the children in order to avoid duplicate gifts. Work together with your co-parenting partner to fulfill your kid’s Christmas list instead of trying to ‘one-up’ the other parent.
Keep familiar routines in place – bed and screen times, food, etc. If there are any holiday exceptions, make sure you agree to them with the other parent and that the exceptions are consistent between both households.
7. Maintain Contact with Your Children
Don’t miss out on your children’s holiday joy when you’re apart.
Work with the other parent to arrange phone calls with your children. Facetime or Skype whenever possible. Be creative and remember that you can read stories, play games, and be interactive with your children even when you are apart, using modern technology.
Be respectful of the other parent’s time with the children and plan calls around their activities when you can. You should reciprocate these actions when the children are with you. Consider a proactive approach and let your ex know when the best time(s) to have a substantial conversation with the children would be.
8. Involve Your Kids in the Holiday Planning
If they’re old enough, ask your kids what they most enjoy about the holidays.
Is it a particular event – like a Halloween party, Thanksgiving parade, or a Christmas program?
Is it a family gathering or meal, reading stories, caroling around the neighborhood?
Make arrangements to make those important events happen. Or create new traditions based on the children’s suggestions. Also, share your new holiday schedule with your children. Make sure they know who they’ll be with, where & when, and how & when you’ll be in touch with them when they’re not with you.
9. Be Supportive of Your Children’s Love for Their Other Parent
Avoid competitive approaches; such as “I can give my children a better holiday than you can.”
Rather, take your children shopping for presents for the other parent, or help them to make a gift or write a card.
Build up your children’s excitement about spending time with the other parent. Tell them that they will have fun, and that you’re happy about that. Stay mindful of how you respond to any situations with your ex that you find frustrating during this time. Remember that it isn’t all about you right now.
If you need a little tech support with planning and co-parenting, there are online resources, such as https://www.ourfamilywizard.com/, that offer resources for co-parenting.
10. If You Are Single – Go Mingle
If you’re recently single after a divorce and don’t have children, or don’t have the children with you, it’s recommended that you still make plans to spend time with loved ones, family, and friends over the holiday season.
Avoid spending the holidays by yourself.
You can reach out to family, friends, and co-workers, or join a volunteer initiative for a cause that you have a passion for, or join some group travel plans.
11. Don’t Go Strolling Down Memory Lane
Avoid visiting places you used to go to with your ex – especially if the divorce is recent.
Explore new places and make new memories. In, or out of town.
12. Look Forward to a Fresh Start
The holiday season marks the beginning of the end of the year.
Look at the new year as an opportunity to move-on from the old (court dates, arguments, legal forms.) and move onto the new. Consider taking up a new sport or hobby. Look around in your community for opportunities to give back. Learn a new skill or language.
Take advantage of the holidays to as a time to cherish what is near and dear to you, but also to wipe the slate clean of baggage that you no longer need to carry.
Create your own magic moments, but do not feel compelled to meet unrealistic expectations.
Think outside of the box, it’s usually more fun!
Treasure your family, friends, and loved ones, but allow yourself time for some self-care.
Stay positive, open to new experiences, and always facing forward… embracing the possibilities the future may hold for you.
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